Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Murder In Chapel Hill, NC - Who Are We?

Three Muslim college students shot dead in Chapel Hill, NC. This is not who we are. Not in Chapel Hill. Not in North Carolina. Not in the United States.

Back in 2006, I interviewed a Muslim college student from UNC on my radio show, on WCOM, Carrboro and Chapel Hill's community radio station. She was part of a movement to promote understanding between Jewish and Muslim students on campus.

There we were, a Muslim girl, a lapsed Catholic and my two Jewish co-hosts, laughing, being irreverent with each other, and seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles.

That is who we are. But is it?

For we are the same North Carolina where, just recently, Duke University refused a request to permit a Muslim call to prayer from its chapel tower. The same North Carolina that so condones murder that we permit state murder as restitution for individual capital crime.

We are the same United States that witnesses some 32,000 gun deaths a year. And that has tens of thousands of its military personnel camped out in the Middle East.

There will be many calls today and in the coming weeks for calm, for peace, for Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the United States to renew and reflect our shared values. But precisely what are the values that we are sharing with our own citizens, and with the rest of the world?

Deah Shaddy Barakat came to UNC to learn how to be a dentist. So that he could help to look after fellow human beings. His wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were also at university; not to learn how to hate, but as part of a process of making the world a better place.

And we killed them. We may not have pulled the trigger. But we are part of an American society that nurtured their death, every bit as much as their actual killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, nursed some perverse hatred in his heart, whether over a parking dispute or something more sinister, it really doesn't matter.

This is who we are. As Chapel Hill residents. As North Carolinians. As Americans. Until we make it different.

Today, I am Deah. I am Yusor. I am Razan. But I am also Craig Stephen Hicks. And I am ashamed.

#IamDeah #IamYusor #IamRazan

[The attached pic is of a vigil organized at short notice, and attended by students and faculty of UNC and townspeople of Chapel Hill. The Facebook Event Page for the vigil stated that some 5,500 people would be attending. This is a true indication of the spirit of those townspeople and of UNC itself.]