by Sophie Aanerud
Holding flickering candles and roses, hundreds of people (many Muslim) gathered in Westlake Park on the evening of February 14. Amidst prayers and speeches, the prompting of this somber gathering stood present in the minds (and media) of America.
On February 10, three young college students (husband and wife Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha) were murdered in their condominium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It has been argued that the prime suspect in the murders, the victims’ neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks, committed the crime in response to a parking-related dispute, but many attribute Hicks’ violence to his anti-theist views and the fact that all three victims were practicing Muslims.
Despite following the second largest religion in the world, the over two million Muslims living in America often experience hostility, prompted largely by a burgeoning of anti-Islamic mentality in the United States following 9/11. “I think yes, [the fact that the victims were Muslim] did factor in,” reflects Muslim student and Roosevelt senior, Jaafar Kadhim, “all this happens because of the media.” Kadhim explains that films such as the recently released American Sniper and other American media forms have influenced how Muslims are seen, inciting anti-Muslim hostility among many misinformed individuals.
Kadhim adds that he personally feels safe as a Muslim American, but that location has much to do with it, “My family chose to live in Seattle because it is more liberal and there are fewer instances of violence against Muslims.”
Indeed, the memorial held at Westlake Park for the victims at Chapel Hill was a peaceful moment in which both Muslim and non-Muslim-alike stood side by side in mourning. In the midst of the tranquil atmosphere at Westlake, however, the tragic reason for the gathering— the fact that three young people had been killed (and their murder was likely prompted by American anti-Islamic mentality) — remained fresh on minds.