Shooting at Chapel Hill

[Content Note: Terrorism; guns; death; Islamophobia; anti-religiousness.]

Yesterday at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, a white man who strongly identified with the anti-religious sentiment promoted by leaders of movement atheism and posted anti-religious views on social media, shot and killed three Muslims, husband and wife Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Yusor's sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. He then turned himself into police.

My sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Deah, Yusor, and Razan.

A couple of notes:

1. This shooting happened around 5:00 ET yesterday. I didn't hear a single thing about it until this morning. Not an alert about an active campus shooter, not a notification about a campus lockdown, not a single news item in any of news sources I check regularly.

2. In the coverage that's finally showing up on mainstream news sites, there is no suggestion that Hicks is a terrorist, despite the fact that he targeted Muslims. Which of course is not surprising, but is enraging: Hicks is white and his victims are Muslim, which flips the script entirely on what constitutes "terrorism" in the United States.

This is how it's being reported at CNN [video may autoplay at link]:

screen cap of CNN story reading: 'A 46-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of three Muslim students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. Police haven't said what may have compelled the accused, Craig Stephen Hicks, to allegedly carry out the attack Tuesday evening. He turned himself in to police later in the night. But given the victims' religion and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page, many social media users wondered what role, if any, the victims' faith played.'

"What role, if any, the victims' faith played." As opposed to, you know, what role their killer's hatred and bigotry toward people of their faith played.

That's some smooth-ass victim-blaming, right there.

3. It's amazing how a white man who just murdered three people managed to turn himself into police alive. Good thing he wasn't selling loose cigarettes. Ahem.

4. This should be a day of reckoning for the most visible leaders of movement atheism who routinely engage in hyperbolic anti-Muslim rhetoric. But of course that won't happen. What will happen is that anyone who dares suggest that they are fomenting hatred—and that, although Hicks is accountable for his own actions, they don't exist in a vacuum—will be accused of opportunistic and mendacious attacks, even if they are fellow atheists, like me, who simply refuse to pretend we don't understand how culture works.

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