From Chapel Hill tragedy, a true picture of Muslims shines

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Originally published in News & Observer

All one has to do to see the beauty of Islam is to take a look at the lives of the three amazing young Muslims or the response and reaction from their families and Muslim community in the wake of the tragic slayings in Chapel Hill.

Contrast this with every major news channel’s favorite depiction of Islam as a religion of hate and evil whose followers are nothing less than agents of terror. Yet, sadly, this is not even a topic of discussion. These beautiful kids were shining stars in their communities and among their peers. Three promising futures dashed in an instant. Over what? A parking spot?

Let’s not kid ourselves here. The sound of that is simply absurd, and even more astounding is that, somehow, this is actually being conveyed by investigators. The so-called “parking dispute” might have played a minor role in this saga, but what could lead someone to consciously pick up a loaded weapon, enter into neighbors’ home and mercilessly execute three unarmed, unassuming, unintimidating people?

Even as barbaric as these crimes were, you do not see the family or members of the community up in arms, spewing hate, rioting or even showing anger. Watch the interviews of the family members in their efforts to uphold the legacy of their loved ones and to try to ensure justice is served. Their demeanor, politeness, strength and strong faith are inspirational.

I blame irresponsible reporting that has helped to assassinate the character of a peaceful religion, demonized Muslims and contributed to the Islamophobia that is likely, at the least, an underlying factor behind this vicious attack. The media’s sensational depiction of ISIS, AQIP or the hottest “Islamic” terror group of the time implicates all Muslims. In the same breath, I blame these so-called Islamic terror groups. These self-proclaimed defenders of the faith pretend to uphold the ideals of Islam while it is their perversions and actions that are the true enemy of Islam.

As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Research Triangle area, I worry about such unfortunate results from the rising trend in Islamophobia. I have attended N.C. State, and my sister and many good friends have graduated from there. I still have family and friends who attend UNC-Chapel Hill.

This could have been me, my wife, my brother or my sisters. Must we be afraid even in our own homes? Do I now have to raise my newborn daughter worrying that, just because of who she is and what she looks like and the religion she practices, she might be the victim of hate?

No, instead I will encourage her to be proud of those very things that make her unique. Is it not these differences and the celebration of these differences that inherently make her American? I have grown up proud to be an American but also proud of my heritage, culture and religion. She should be afforded the same right.

Muslims in America and those around the world are hurting. Our faith, however fervently and truthfully we practice it, has been hijacked by monsters whose greed and lust for power under the guise of our pure religion have not only vilified us all but also disrespected the Prophet Muhammad beyond comparison. The media are of no help as they continue to perpetuate the stereotype. And now we are being made targets of hate in our own countries, towns and even our own homes.

I join the Barakat and Abu-Salha families in their search for justice and as they uphold the legacies of their loved ones, Deah Shaddy Barkat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Let’s ensure their deaths were not in vain by continuing their humanitarian efforts to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey and by fighting Islamophobia so something like this never happens again

By Kareem Syed

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