What the Chapel Hill murders reveal about the place of Muslims in American society (COMMENTARY)

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Students with lit candles attend a vigil on the campus of the University of North Carolina, for Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Yusor's sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha who were killed in Chapel Hill, N.C. on February 10, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BIGELOW-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Feb. 16, 2015.

Students with lit candles attend a vigil on the campus of the University of North Carolina, for Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Yusor's sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha who were killed in Chapel Hill, N.C. on February 10, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BIGELOW-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Feb. 16, 2015.

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RALEIGH, N.C. (RNS) Though Deah, Yusor, and Razan were achievers in every imaginable sense, it was not this that killed them. It was the ability to erase their achievements, their individuality, their humanity that made them easy targets for a person whose rage and frustration was well documented.

  • Frank

    Can someone be more clueless?

    “While the particular motives of the shooter cannot be determined at this stage, it is abundantly clear that these deaths were not just about parking.,

    The ignorance and bias that many are rushing into, claiming this has anything to do with anything but a disturbed man and a parking space, is not only being foolish but degrading these lost lives.

    It’s pitiful that people have yo chop a tragedy to make a their own political or social point.

    Truly pitiful.

  • Nelda Holder

    This is a wise commentary. I only hope we can grasp some flicker of its import and use that to light a candle in honor of three beautiful individuals, and in order to lead ourselves out of the darkness of this tragedy.

  • What is the function of intellectualoids, but to tell us that things are not as ordinary people perceive them (and that ordinary people need more moral instruction from intellectualoids).

  • American Muslims have been detained unlawfully, deported, and monitored by all levels of law enforcement, long before Sept. 11, 2001 and the passage of the Patriot Act. Less


  • Ken

    The care and concern for these three young people show that the USA is a far better society than anything ever seen in the Islamic world.

    But still, Muslims need to do the apologizing to non-Muslim Americans. Here’s a glimpse of reality:

    “The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco,” stated President Obama in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009.

    Morocco began recognizing American colonists in 1625, as Governor William Bradford wrote of the fates of a Pilgrim ship sent back to England carrying dried fish and 800 lbs of beaver skins to trade for supplies:

    “They…were well within the England channel, almost in sight of Plymouth. But…there she was unhapply taken by a Turkish man-
    of-war and carried off to Morocco where the captain and crew were made slaves.”

    Muslim pirates of Morocco raided European coasts and carried away over a million to the North African slave markets, where also tens of millions of Africans were sold into slavery.

    In 1627, Algerian Muslim pirates, led by Murat Reis the Younger, raided Iceland, and carried 400 into slavery.

    One captured girl, who had been made a slave concubine in Algeria, was rescued back by King Christian IV of Denmark.

    On June 20, 1631, the entire village of Baltimore, Ireland, “The Stolen Village,” was captured by Muslim pirates. Only two ever returned.

    Thomas Osborne Davis wrote in his poem, “The Sack of Baltimore” (1895):

    “The yell of ‘Allah!’ breaks above the shriek and roar;
    O’blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore.”

    Kidnapped Englishman Francis Knight wrote:

    “I arrived in Algiers, that city fatal to all Christians and the butchery of mankind.”

    Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail had 500 wives, mostly captured from Europe, and forced 25,000 white slaves to build his enormous palace at Meknes. He was witnessed killing an African slave just to try out a new hatchet he was given.

    The Catholic Order “Trinitarians” collected alms to ransom slaves.

    Morocco recognized the new country of the United States in 1785 by capturing two American ships and holding them for ransom.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Jay, 1787:

    “There is an order of priests called the Mathurins, the object of whose institution is to beg alms for the redemption of captives.

    They keep members always in Barbary, searching out the captives of their country, and redeem, I believe, on better terms than any other body, public or private.

    It occurred to me, that their agency might be obtained for the redemption of our prisoners at Algiers.”

    In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote to William Carmichael regarding Tripoli’s demand for an extortion tribute payment, 1786:

    “Mr. Adams and I had conferences with a Tripoline ambassador, named Abdrahaman. He asked us thirty thousand guineas for a peace with his court.”

    When Jefferson asked the Muslim Ambassador what the new country of America had done to offend them, he reported to John Jay, March 28, 1786:

    “The Ambassador answered us that it was…written in their Qur’an, that all nations who should not have acknowledged Islam’s authority were sinners, that it was their…duty to make war upon them…and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.”

    Jefferson purchased a Qur’an to understand the enemy.

    Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. Federal budget was used to make extortion tribute payments to the Muslim pirates, yet they still continued their piracy.

    When Jefferson became President, he finally sent in the U.S. Navy and Marines to stop Morocco’s Barbary pirates.

    In his First Annual Message, December 8, 1801, Thomas Jefferson stated:

    “Tripoli…of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to (announce) war on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer.

    I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean, with assurances to that power of our sincere desire to remain in peace, but with orders to protect our commerce against the threatened attack. ”

    On December 29, 1803, the new 36-gun USS Philadelphia ran aground on Morocco’s shallow coast and Muslim pirates captured and imprisoned Captain William Bainbridge and his 307 man crew for 18 months.

    To prevent the ship from being used by the Muslim Barbary pirates, Lieut. Stephen Decatur, on FEBRUARY 16, 1804, sailed his ship Intrepid into Tripoli’s pirate harbor on FEBRUARY 16, 1804.

    Decatur set fire to the captured U.S. frigate “Philadelphia” and escaped amidst fierce enemy fire.

    British Admiral Horatio Nelson called it the “most bold and daring act of the age.”

    The Navy and Marines later captured Tripoli and forced the Pasha to make peace on U.S. terms.

    Frederick Leiner wrote in The End of the Barbary Terror-America’s 1815 War Against the Pirates of North Africa (Oxford University Press):

    “Commodore Stephen Decatur and diplomat William Shaler withdrew to consult in private… The Algerians were believed to be masters of duplicity, willing to make agreements and break them as they found convenient.”

    The annotated John Quincy Adams-A Bibliography, compiled by Lynn H. Parsons (Westport, CT, 1993, p. 41, entry #194), contains “Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War and on Greece,” published in The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29 (NY: 1830):

    “Our gallant Commodore Stephen Decatur had chastised the pirate of Algiers… The Dey (Omar Bashaw)…disdained to conceal his intentions;

    ‘My power,’ said he, ‘has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it; but beware of the moment, when I shall recover my power, for with that moment, your treaty shall be waste paper.'”

    The First Barbary War, 1801-1805, America’s first war after the Revolution, and the Second Barbary War, 1815, gave rise to the Marine Anthem:

    “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

    – – – http://www.americanminute.com/

  • Larry
  • Larry

    @ Ken, maybe you missed this part of the article

    “It is absurd to call for Muslims to speak out against violence done in the name of Islam for two reasons. Adherents of other religions do not have to apologize when one of their co-religionists commits a crime. Buddhists are not responsible for attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, for example. For some reason, it is hard to imagine that a Muslim may do bad things for nonreligious reasons and do good things due to their faith. Second, it is absurd because in the contemporary Internet age Lit requires only a few keystrokes for a person to become acquainted with the many ways in which Muslims publicly reject extremism, violence, intolerance, and injustice. One of Deah’s last tweets did exactly that. “It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should ‘kill Jews’ or ‘Kill Palestinians’. As if that’s going to solve anything SMH (shake my head).””

  • Larry, citing known frauds and sectaries was not what I had in mind.

  • Fourth Valley

    I am Baha’i. I mention this because no Baha’i has to this date engaged in the crime of Piracy.

    Thus I ask you Christians to apologize for the existence of pirates who happen to have been Christian. Christian pirates have raped, pillaged, and murdered throughout much of history.

    So I ask YOU to apologize for Spanish Mediterranean Corsairs, post-Christianization Viking Raids, “Black Bart” Roberts, George Booth, “Black Sam” Bellamy, Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, William Kidd, Lars Gathenhielm, “Calico Jack” Rackham, James Kelly, Edward “Ned” Low, and pretty much the entirety of the Golden Age of piracy.

    AFTER you apologize for those horrible people, then you are justified in asking the Muslims to apologize for THEIR pirates. But you Christians have a LOT of pirates of your own to apologize for!!

    OR, here’s a revolutionary thought, maybe we shouldn’t judge religions BY THE QUALITY OF THEIR PIRATES. Because if we do that, my friend, my own religion and the others that happen to be pirate-free come out on top, while yours sinks to the bottom of Davey Jones’ locker.

  • Fourth Valley

    Oh, silly me, let’s not forget the founder of America’s Navy, the Christian and Pirate John Paul Jones. Apologize for him as well.

  • It is a disgrace that these wonderful people were killed.
    I’m ashamed that I live in a country which can’t figure out how to keep guns away from rotten fascist jackasses.

    Muslims in America have a great opportunity to accomplish things in this country because the USA is a tolerant (usually) and free society which rightly does not discriminate against people for their religious belief.

    These Muslims deserved to live and flourish and I am disgusted that their lives were cut short for no reason.

    It doesn’t matter if they were Christian, Muslim, Jainist, Native Americans, Hindus or Christian Scientist – It is despicable that these people may have been targeted for what they look like, how they dress and for what they believe.

    One thing about Atheists which differs from some religious fanatics
    – you won’t see a single one of us dancing in the streets over the slaughter of these completely innocent and beautiful people.

    Meanwhile remember the biggest enemy of Muslims today are other Muslims.
    40 killed in Baghdad yesterday by other Muslims. 160 Killed in Pakistans…by other Muslims.

  • @Larry,

    Thanks for keeping the torch burning for the humanitarian in us.

  • Pingback: What the Chapel Hill murders reveal about the place of Muslims in American society (COMMENTARY) | International Christian Herald()

  • Larry

    I take it then you prefer to get your information from psychic visions or Fox News. If it isn’t flinging poo at a speaker, its out of your area of knowledge.

  • The Great God Pan

    In the summer of last year, a Muslim man named Ali Muhammad Brown killed two gay men in Seattle after luring them in via Grindr.

    The “social justice” crowd didn’t seem to take much notice. Professor Anna Bigelow didn’t write any think pieces for RNS about those victims or that murderer. RNS contributors Chris Stedman and Sarah Jones didn’t send out any tweets about what relation there may have been between the killings and Brown’s religion, or about how unsafe it is to be LGBT in America


  • mike blake

    I do not think the professor should be required to know about every crime that happens in this country. This happened in her back yard to someone she knew. What did you do for the people you mentioned?

  • Dtruth

    Gosh…I sure am glad you have this all figured out…

  • John

    As I consider the place of Muslims in our country I can only reason from experience.

    1. Every friend I’ve had killed in war was killed by a radicalized Muslim.
    2. Radicalized Islam is a real problem. The hopes and dreams of liberal activists isn’t going to change that.
    3. The US has been very generous in settling many Muslim refugees from radicalized territories. I wonder how long before these young men and women start making individual attacks here. Is it wise to bring in people whose culture and religion is oriented toward violence and intolerance.
    4. There are many Muslims who are not intolerance and do not advocate violence. I have two Muslim friends at the moment, one immigrant from Africa and another from the Middle East. Both are reasonable civilized people who contribute to American society.

    So you can’t judge every Muslim on the basis of the action of radicalized extremists. But you also can’t wish away the reality and influence of radicalization on people in certain areas of the world. To continue to import refugees from these areas is only asking for trouble.

  • Ginger

    You might get an apology if the pirates you cite actually committed their piracy in the name of Christ. See, that is the issue here. People try to compare Muslims doing things in the name of Islam and Allah to Christians doing the same things in the name of greed, power and just plain evil. The dilemma is, if someone does something evil in the name of Christianity, they cannot truly be doing it in the name of Christianity because the teachings of Christ do not allow for evil. On the other hand, Muslims can commit atrocities in the name of Islam and it is allowed by Islam.

  • Ginger,

    “because the teachings of Christ do not allow for evil.”

    Read YOUR BIBLE!

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine and Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

  • Fourth Valley

    Ginger: The Muslim Pirates cited by the person I am replying to did not commit piracy in the name of their faith either.

    So I am just as justified in asking for you Christians to apologize as the person I was responding to is of asking Muslims to apologize for Muslim pirates. Which was the point of my post.

    So either apologize for your horrible pirates, or never try to use Barbary pirates as a litmus test for all of Islam.

    ((And there actually WERE a FEW historical incidents of Christian Pirates who used their faith as justification. A very few Protestant Pirates who attacked only Catholic ships and vice-versa. Apologize.))

  • Fourth Valley

    The issue, I find, is that you’ll reply to me demanding Christians apologize for Christian Pirates and rightly denouncing that. But you said NOTHING to the commenter above who demanded Muslims apologize for Muslim Pirates.

    What the hell is with that double standard??

    Anyways, as a member of a pirateless religion, I’ll play this game if you want.

  • Larry

    “3. The US has been very generous in settling many Muslim refugees from radicalized territories. I wonder how long before these young men and women start making individual attacks here. Is it wise to bring in people whose culture and religion is oriented toward violence and intolerance.”

    Yes it is wise because many of them are coming here to flee that violence and intolerance. Its like saying we should not have taken in people fleeing Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union because their society was so violent and repressive.

    We are a nation which takes in refugees and asylum seekers. It is in our nature. We don’t do our nation any favors by encouraging sectarian based discrimination and antagonism. Also about 25-40% of the Muslims in this nation are not even immigrants. The predominantly muslim neighborhoods in the US are a far cry from their European counterparts. They are largely upwardly mobile and sedate. They even created some of the few communities in the Detroit metro area which are habitable for humans.

  • Greg

    So we take a parable of Jesus, about the Eternal Judgment in the afterlife, and equate that he is ordering his followers to kill the reprobates? At least know a little about the bible before quoting it, please.

  • Kazimierz Bem

    “While the particular motives of the shooter cannot be determined at this stage, it is abundantly clear that these deaths were not just about parking.”

    You do realize that you have just fundamentally contradicted your self. And shown that whatever you write later on is not about facts, but about your feelings and opinions?

  • Jesus wants them executed.

    Why should it matter WHEN he’d prefer it to happen?

    Jesus offers no rules to prevent someone from using these instructions to burn witches and gays and to kill Jews right now.

    Religion is a blunder – a catastrophic, cultural delusion.

  • WF Purcell

    I really must ask my learned colleague: What is a ‘Muslim-American’? I have heard (and used) such terms as Irish-American, Japanese-American, Iranian-American and the like. However, I have never used or heard of ‘Catholic-Americans,’ ‘Jewish-Americans’ or “Buddhist-Americans’–American Catholics, American Jews or American Buddhists, for sure, but the nuance is quite different.

    Religion is not an ethnic identity. Muslims from Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and elsewhere are just as different as Catholics from Ireland, Phillipines, Argentina, or Nigeria. We wouldn’t dream of lumping Catholics from such diverse cultural backgrounds together. ‘American Muslims’ makes a lot of sense. However, ‘Muslim-Americans’ strikes me as somehow reductive.

  • “Religion is not an ethnic identity.”

    Thanks for that reminder. ‘Muslim-American’ is not a useful term.