Originally published in The Star Tribune
On Wednesday night, the Al-Madinah Cultural Center at the University of Minnesota held a candlelight vigil for the three Muslims who were shot to death in Chapel Hill, N.C. While sources suggest the motives were due to parking disputes, one can’t simply ignore the fact that anti-Islamic sentiment portrayed in the media has been on the rise and may have contributed to fueling the perpetrator’s hate for Muslims. From the Charlie Hebdo incident, to the climactic depictions that vilified Muslims in the movie “American Sniper” to all the attention that ISIL receives in the news, Islam has been heavily misrepresented, and the moderate Muslim majority has been implicated.
On the other hand, we see that two of the moderate-Muslim victims had recently returned from a mission trip to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Barakat volunteered regularly, raising money for Syrian war victims and collecting and donating dental supplies to the homeless community in his area. These are the true examples of Muslims the world should know about and the media should more often depict.
Both CNN and Fox News have referred to the person charged in the killings — Craig Hicks — only as “a man.” It’s time that media outlets stop reserving the term “terrorist” for extremist radicals claiming to be Muslim, as it only serves to cognitively build anti-Islamic sentiment.