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My fellow Muslim-Americans, in the wake of Chapel Hill we can’t stop speaking out – even if our voices shake

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Dear Fellow Muslim-Americans,

I know many of you are afraid.

I am, too. It’s hard not to be, when it could’ve been us.

This letter is a token of faith to all of you – if you have been discriminated against for your beliefs before or after Feb. 10, and if you have been, or are, scared toleave your home today.

This is for anyone who feels like they’ve been bullied into silence.

I’m sure you’re probably asking yourselves: do your lives hold any value? Are we worth any headlines?

They do, and we are.

The three victims of the Chapel Hill shooting. From the left is Deah Barakat; Yusor Abu-Salha; and Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha. (Photo via Facebook)

The three victims of the Chapel Hill shooting. From the left is Deah Barakat; Yusor Abu-Salha; and Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha. (Photo via Facebook)

We’ve heard each other’s voices resound as we continue to digest the tragic, horrifying Feb. 10 terrorist attack that took the lives of three Muslim-Americans in North Carolina: 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. The victims were shot to death in the head by accused killer Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46-year-old man who was been charged with killing the three at a residential complex of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after turning himself in, according to multiple news organizations.

In less than 24 hours since the shooting, we had read countless statements of encouragement and support expressed by non-Muslims over social media, easing the pain if just a bit, and allowing us to feel that we are not always ostracized. I feel safe speaking for many in that we do feel marginalized and alone in times like this where we easily could’ve been in the place of the three victims who were killed.

While this letter is not meant to derail from how meaningful and appreciated this solidarity is, we naturally have qualms with the alarming, twisted tweets and comments on articles raining down on us, as well as the fear they are attempting to instill in us, or anyone who supports our right to follow our faith.

Some users said in chilling tweets that the three victims of the shooting deserved to die due to their Islamic faith. Another person commented they were glad the tragedy occurred because it gives Muslims a taste of how Americans felt after the tragic 9/11 attacks (they do realize we’re also Americans and felt that pain too, right?). Despite the fact that the Muslims who died in the Chapel Hill attack were known for their volunteer work both at the University of North Carolina and in other countries, they are still deemed “terrorists” and “ragheads” by some. I even saw a Twitter user refer to Hicks as a “hero” for committing the hate crime, and others personally told me to go back to “where I came from” due to my opinions and religious beliefs.

These may just be faceless Twitter users clicking keys behind their computers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t reflect the thoughts and beliefs of real people in our country, just like Hicks.

In response, countless many Muslim-Americans on social media and in articles have expressed they are truly afraid for their safety and even fear leaving their homes or going to school.

Here’s an obvious question playing on repeat in our minds right now: Is this really happening? Because I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that in the United States of America – a democratic, free country that constitutes freedom of religion among other freedoms in its very doctrine and foundation – people are being executed for their religious faith. Many news organizations have cited police as saying a “parking dispute” led to the killing, and that it isn’t yet classified as a hate crime. But investigation into Hicks’ Facebook account, and conversations with the victims’ family, prove otherwise despite what authorities and the media tell us, or care to tell us.

The bigoted beliefs displayed clearly stem from a dehumanization of Muslims, which, in itself, stems from age-old stereotypes that Muslims are violent and should all be apologetic and held responsible when a Muslim commits a crime or act of terror. It’s enough that we are expected to condemn attacks by a small minority of Muslims, and what many people don’t realize is that we already do. Despite this, apologies are demanded from our lips for actions we are not responsible for. But if Muslims are killed, the same is not demanded from the other side, and our right to feel sadness and empathy with the Chapel Hill victims is consistently questioned.

But I refuse to apologize for feeling afraid, or for feeling like the whole world has collapsed on our shoulders, translating into this never-ending burden we are forced to carry on our backs despite the fact that we are Americans.

Many who are quick to judge Muslims fail to grasp that the three who were killed are Muslim-Americans. It could’ve been me and my family. It could’ve been yours. It could’ve been us.

And in a way, it was.

Because now, not only do we stand in solidarity with the loved ones of those whose lives were lost, but we are afraid more than ever before. To see that this could happen without any condemnation or mere recognition by President Barack Obama – makes us think twice before leaving our homes in fear of being attacked. It makes us think twice before revealing our Muslim identity to others in fear of retribution – the antithesis of what the United States was built on. After the Chapel Hill shooting, my mother, in avid fear, warned me to consistently check that the doors at our home were locked and to not open the door for strangers. In a dark, grotesque way this almost seems comical – a mother telling her grown, 22-year-old daughter to not open the door for strangers.

What I should have told her is that I am more scared for her  – she steps out of the doors of our home more visibly Muslim than I, wearing the hijab. I am scared for my aunts, my cousins and friends who also cover.

If mainstream media – or those who do not clearly understand the fear Muslim-Americans face in society – would actually ask us how we feel, they would learn this is not the first time we’ve been afraid. Police said in a news conference after the shooting that the recent shooting was an “isolated” incident. But it wasn’t to us, because this is not the first time we’ve been treated as if we aren’t human, that our lives do not matter. I vividly remember the times I was called a terrorist in school growing up, spat at verbally and scolded with words that dug through my heart like the sharpest of knives. I refuse to minimize the impact these moments had on my self-esteem and self-worth, especially when my family members and friends have been assaulted in public simply for wearing a head covering, because their names sounded foreign or even because they wear beards.

Trust me, I know it hurts and we can’t deny the pain. This may be a stark reality to some, but we should not have to defend our worth and beliefs to the world. The media and those with bigoted beliefs don’t always think Muslims can be victims of terrorism because to them, it’s only newsworthy if Muslims are the ones behind the gun.

But we know this isn’t true, and we can’t let the constant fear-mongering drive us into silence like they want it to. Our very words brought light to this issue from the start, and we should be proud of ourselves today, and tomorrow, and in the future because in the wake of this tragedy, social media users across the globe – both Muslims and non-Muslims – reacted to both the shooting and the media’s delayed coverage – or lack of any immediate coverage — on the attack. This pressure seemed to finally lead to coverage by large, conglomerate news organizations, including CNN, NBC, FOX as well as globally acclaimed print and digital publications like the New York Times.

I know it’s scary, and even though it’s undoubtedly risky due to the incessant Islamophobia surrounding us, we can’t stop speaking – even if our voices shake. This Chapel Hill tragedy depicts the overwhelming support we actually do have in this struggle, and how our words, our breaths – just like the breaths of the victims that were taken away, whose lives were robbed in North Carolina Feb. 10 – are worth headlines. They are powerful, they are valuable, and we will give them value even if others do not.

We must not be afraid, apologetic or embarrassed to identify ourselves as a Muslims. We must be proud of who we are, and we must continue to challenge systemic racism and bigotry that continues to plague the chance that minorities can actually live completely free. We are Muslims, and we are humans, and we are breathing things with dreams and goals and voices and lives that, just like Deah, Yusor and Razan, matter and deserve to be heard.

Your fellow Muslim-American,

Samah Assad

Samah Assad

Samah Assad is a journalist based in Cleveland, Ohio. She blogs at and tweets at @SamahAssad.

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65 Responses

  1. Kay24 on February 12, 2015, 9:59 am

    American Muslims must stay strong, and not be intimidated by these bigots. There is a deliberate campaign to make ALL Muslims look like evil, and connect them with the terrorists in other nations, there are horrible people like the Pamela Gellers, and the ignorant commenters in the media, who add to this image by their misinformation, and doing the dirty work of their masters, who have put in millions of dollars to keep this hate campaign going. Generally people are naive and will believe what is repeated over and over again. Muslims must be hated for others to get away with their crimes against Muslims. Muslims should be hated so that there is justification for attacks and massacres against innocent Muslims.
    This evil man took the lives of 3 beautiful kids, because he hated them, and for what they were.
    American Muslims have so much to be proud of, they are hard working, and living peacefully in the US, and should stay strong. Do not let this terrible incident take away your sense of security and peace.

    • DavidDaoud on February 13, 2015, 2:43 pm

      Like you Kay24, I think there was an element of jealousy in the attack. The murderer was envious of the accomplishments of his victims so early in their lives. He could see that they were fairly well to do, they were happy and beautiful. So unlike him.

  2. just on February 12, 2015, 10:14 am

    Thank you, Samah.

    Islamophobia is fed minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, etc. by the MSM, the politicians, Hollywood, endless wicked and engineered wars upon MENA and dehumanization of the “enemy”, the abject ignorance of a vast swath of the American public, and the bloodthirsty and misbegotten desire for “revenge” post 911 that was fueled by the neocons and Bushco. It is a frightening thing to behold, and it is real. It was deliberate.

    I am glad that you wrote this. When I saw the outpouring of support for these Muslim victims of terror, I felt a tiny burst of hope. I hope that out of this tragedy, some new way forward will be found.

  3. Walid on February 12, 2015, 10:22 am

    Samah, first I’m very sorry for what thappened and for what families are going through. In the photo of the 3 victims, they look as if they are the sweetest people on this earth and it’s a shame their lives ended so tragically and so early.

    But I don’t agree with you about Moslems digging their heels in and making a stand, not at this time at least. There is enough fear and anger on both sides without any one side taking this opportunity to make a stand. I wish the Moslem community would just throttle back a bit and give the spooked non-Moslems a chance to catch their breath and get back their good senses. There is a time and a place for everything and this time is not the right one to appear even more different than the rest. I’m not saying they should drop the hijab or shave the beards or anything like that but to simply lay back a while about building mosques and asking for special privileges. It’s about timing and choosing the right time to do the right thing.

    • just on February 12, 2015, 10:44 am

      Walid~ I’m perplexed by your post. I just re- read Samah’s article and could find no suggestion that Muslims ‘rise up’.

      • Krauss on February 12, 2015, 12:50 pm

        Walid that was the dumbest thing you have written in a long time.

        How is it “asking for special privileges” in order not to be singled out? Building mosques is now a provocation? Are you trolling on purpose or are you just that dumb?

    • In2u on February 12, 2015, 1:50 pm

      Paris, France didn’t wait, Why USA?

    • Samah Assad on February 12, 2015, 5:27 pm

      Hello Walid,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your comments. I would like to respond to your comment as I find some points in your response to be problematic in alignment with my article, and I want to be sure my piece is clearly understood to all for its base idea.

      First, I do not believe it is fair to Muslims that, in your response, you encourage them to change their actions in order for others to feel more comfortable, ie. when you wrote for them to “lay back” for awhile or to not build more mosques so that non-Muslims can “catch their breath”. In a way, this casts the blame on Muslims for their own suffering, forcing us to alter our actions and how we feel for the sake of others’ emotions, in a time where we are feeling an indescribable amount of pain and fear. Simply, it is the equivalent to saying we are not justified in feeling the way we do, and that our emotions are not equal to those who may be “spooked.” It is not our responsibility to cater to feelings of some who are “spooked” through changing our faith, actions or who we are. Actually, I’m not sure why they would be, when on Feb. 10, three Muslims were the ones who were victims of a hate crime. I guess if anything, we should all be spooked at this tragedy and others similar to them – whether the victims were Muslim or non-Muslim – because we are all Americans, and we are all humans.

      Second, you write in your response to my article: “There is enough fear and anger on both sides without any one side taking this opportunity to make a stand.” It is clear in my article and my tone of voice that my piece is not coming from an angry place, but rather, a place of solidarity. It is absolutely possible to take a stand without being angry, and the two are not synonymous. With my piece I am showing positivity, solidarity and strength to my fellow Muslim-Americans in that they should always be proud of who they are, and that they should not be afraid. I do not believe this sentiment is one that is angry or wrong, nor do I believe that demanding equal rights constitutes as asking for special privileges.

      All in all, the main gist of my piece is not for us Muslims to “dog our heels,” but instead not allow Islamophobia to drive us into fear to a point where we are afraid to share our emotions with others or tell others who we are. We have a right to feel the way we do without catering to others’ emotions who attempt to justify whether we can or cannot feel.

      Thank you again for reading my article and for your comments, Walid. I appreciate your feedback, and please feel free to reach out with any questions about my article or any more comments you may have.


      • just on February 12, 2015, 6:16 pm

        Thanks for commenting, Samah.

        That’s how I read your article this morning, and your comment only enhances my understanding.

        It’s a wonderful and enduring message~ I have shared it today. I’ve also printed several, and will give in person over the weekend, as not everyone has email… ;-) It’s bookmarked for future reference.

        (say hi to your Mom, your aunts, your cousins and friends!)

      • Walid on February 12, 2015, 8:26 pm

        Hi Samah, there is absolutely nothing wrong in your article and absolutely nothing wrong with building mosques, I’m evidently not expressing myself properly and the more I’ll try to explain. the worse it will continue coming across. I repeated it enough that my message is about timing and nothing else and by timing, I’m thinking of days or weeks at most and not months or years. So I will simply shut up and apologize to you and others that may have been upset my comment. It was made in the context of the mounting wave of Islamophobia and my way of countering it; maybe it’s the wrong way. Thanks for replying.

      • oneangrycomic on February 13, 2015, 10:15 am

        Great and timely article! As a non-Muslim American I’d like to offer my condolences to the families of the wonderful American citizens who were executed by terrorist Hicks. I am deeply ashamed of my country because of its biased media, spineless government and rampant Islamaphobia. MANY people and organizations are responsible for these senseless murders. They either ignore the growing cancer in this country or worse – promote it! Just as the media refused to cover this tragedy and our government ignored it, they also fail to acknowledge that MANY Americans are questioning anti-Muslim behaviors and policies. The Muslim community must realize that our government and media do NOT represent us! However, talk is cheap. I call on all Americans to actively work against Islamaphobia. Genuinely Smile when you meet Muslims and tell them how YOU feel and show solidarity with their community! Try to do what you can to ease their understandable fears and confusion. Show them what America SHOULD look like. Show them how an American is SUPPOSED to behave. Confront hatred and especially Islamaphobia whenever you can. Make me proud to be an American again , before I forget what that feels like!

      • just on February 13, 2015, 2:58 pm

        +1 oneangrycomic!!!

      • oldgeezer on February 14, 2015, 12:02 am


        Quite right and well said

        When has the minority laying back and not making waves ever managed to get them equality or justice?

        I think I’ve seen enough of your posts to guess that you made the suggestion out of concern that even bigger blowback could occur down the road. You are right in that. And that is why the Muslim minority needs those from the majority and other minorities to stand beside them. Call what has happened for what it is. And fight for their equality

        This is a variant of the I/P conflict where demand after demand is placed upon the oppressed/persecuted to put the powerful/majority at ease.

        There is right and there is wrong. There is one race, the human race. There are agreed upon rights. International law and Internationl Humanitarian Law. Time to ensure all people receive the same rights. No one should have to forego them to appease others.

      • Walid on February 14, 2015, 2:13 am

        Oldgeezer, there are also demands by minorities that at times are unjust, but your guessing right about my concerns. I’m thinking along the lines of the 10-year battle at 2 Montreal universities by Moslem students demanding a specific praying space, something not demanded by other religions. The ongoing situation has gone through sit-ins, court actions and other demonstrations. This week there’s another confrontation in Montreal by what appears to be a Moroccan-Canadian self-declared imam wanting to open a community center to teach the religion and the city authorities are blocking him as he is openly anti-democracy and anti-women’s rights and he’ll be taking them to court over it. People like this guy are provoking the blowback that you mentioned. From the Montreal Gazette:

        “A controversial imam who preaches that democracy and Islam are incompatible should think twice before trying to set up an Islamic youth centre in Montreal, politicians warn.
        “I am against all forms of radicalism,” Mayor Denis Coderre said in response to news reports that Hamza Chaoui wants to open the Ashabeb community centre in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough next month.

        Coderre, who met with spiritual leaders Wednesday in hopes of fostering dialogue in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, said he will consult with borough mayor Réal Ménard about the plan.

        But Montreal’s mayor said he rejects Chaoui’s rigid views on democracy and homosexuality, and his suggestion that democracy and Islam are antithetical. “That is not the message of the Qur’an.”

        Originally from Morocco, Chaoui studied electrical engineering at Université Laval, where he became the imam to Muslim students there.

        In postings on his Facebook page, Chaoui argues Islam and democracy are “parallel lines that never intersect” because democracy allows for the election of “an infidel or a homosexual or an atheist who denies the existence of Allah.”

        In other teachings, Chaoui has denounced the World Cup of soccer, where stadiums were rife with the temptations of music, dancing and alcohol. Yet he disagreed with Saudi Arabia’s refusal to let women drive, saying it was not nearly as risky as the alternative — the prospect of women coming into physical contact with men while travelling by taxi or public transport.

        Clearly, my desire is that we don’t have this (community centre) where someone can spread these concepts. — Kathleen Weil, Quebec’s minister of immigration, diversity and inclusion

        Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Kathleen Weil, Quebec’s minister of immigration, diversity and inclusion, said Chaoui’s views are “dangerous” and “unacceptable” in a democratic society like Quebec, where the rule of law applies and men and women are treated as equals.

        “The city of Montreal, I am sure, shares our values, which are Quebec values,” Weil said. “They (his remarks) are dangerous.

        “Clearly, my desire is that we don’t have this (community centre) where someone can spread these concepts. It’s unacceptable that we can have people on our territory who are teaching this to other people and the new generation.”

      • aiman on February 14, 2015, 4:04 am

        Walid, I understand some of your concerns but in what way is the Canadian imam representative of “minority” community opinion? Why are nutcases like him time and again selected as the yardstick for tolerance? I again disagree regarding the prayer space demanded by students – these spaces give working class immigrant communities and students space for belonging. It is their right. There are bars and even cinemas on campuses. I don’t even see it in terms of religion but as the egalitarian right of human communities to spaces of meaning and belonging. After all we don’t live in Pol Pot’s Cambodia or Saudi Arabia. Or do we? That would be an amazing recipe for alienation and ghettoisation.

      • Samah Assad on February 26, 2015, 1:22 pm

        @ just: Thank you for all your support on my articles. It means so much that my words have helped and touched others. Cheers.

    • on February 12, 2015, 5:43 pm

      If anyone needs to throttle back a bit, it is the Zionists and their dupes.

    • Teapot on February 12, 2015, 6:55 pm

      Remaining silent after such a tragedy seems the worst thing to do right now. Silence doesn’t make the pain and the fear go away, quite on the contrary. And having to cower and hide will only strengthen the radical elements within Islam, because they certainly won’t be silenced.
      I think it’s incredibly important that we show solidarity with each other and don’t let fear rule our lives. This isn’t about us vs. them. This is about being yourself without constant fear, which should be possible in a free democratic society. And if it’s not possible, then all the more reason to try anyway.

      • Walid on February 14, 2015, 3:51 am

        Teapot, where did you read the word “silent”?

    • peeesss on February 13, 2015, 3:23 am

      Walid; not only “perplexed” but outraged that this solemn note from this sensitive woman can provoke you into such an idiotic response. “Lay back awhile” hijabs, beards, building Mosques, asking special privileges. “Not the right time to appear even more different than the rest”. Thought only some Zio, Maher type would actually say such nonsense. Give “the spooked non-Muslims a chance to catch their breath”. ? What the hell are you talking about. Your comment certainly doesn’t relate in any way to the heart rendering words of Samah. God be with you Samah Assad.

    • Teapot on February 16, 2015, 5:36 pm

      Teapot, where did you read the word “silent”?

      Sorry Walid, I didn’t actually read the word “silent” anywhere. I had a very upsetting discussion with a family member on this topic and then sort of projected it onto your comment. Next time I’ll try to read more carefully and think before commenting.

      • Walid on February 16, 2015, 10:08 pm

        Hi, Teapot, I asked because I started worrying about having left that impression along with a couple of other misunderstood or misstated comments that pissed off a couple of people here. Nothing wrong with your commenting. I still get very upset everytime I see a photo of those 3 innocent smiling faces, especially as I keep reading how this assassination is being written-off as a spat over a parking space.

  4. just on February 12, 2015, 11:00 am

    This is c.r.a.z.y. Islamophobia run amok~ again. “O Canada”

    “The long-dormant, controversial Jewish Defense League announced it would set up shop in Montreal next week despite opposition by local Jewish and Muslim groups.

    “There is no need for a Jewish self-defense group in Montreal,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko of the Jewish community’s main advocacy group, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA.

    JDL leader Meir Weinstein of Toronto said he would be setting up the country’s second branch outside that city on Feb. 16 to stem the rise of “radical Islam” in Quebec and to help the pro-Israel Conservative Party government return to power in a national election slated for the fall.

    Weinstein, 56, said he planned to have local JDL members aggressively monitor and “infiltrate” radical Islamic groups.

    Rabbi Poupko has said that such anti-Semitic incidents have been successfully dealt with by local authorities and has called JDL “marginal” and “superfluous.”
    In the United States, the FBI in 2001 labeled the JDL, founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a violent “right-wing terrorist group.” The group has been inactive in the U.S. for years.”

    • Walid on February 12, 2015, 11:31 am

      Not many will join up; most Jewish voters are with the Liberals and the more the JDL creates disturbances, the more likely the Jews will stay with the Liberal party.

      • oneangrycomic on February 13, 2015, 10:28 am

        Years ago the JDL detonated a bomb inside Boston Garden. They were protesting against the Bruins playing an exhibition game with a Soviet team. 1) Nobody was arrested and 2) The media quickly buried the story! The VAST majority of you should ask yourself a simple question. – “How does the media decide what to cover, and how much coverage is appropriate?” The answers you’ll find will probably be deeply disturbing. But the Boston Garden Bombing is ancient history. And Twitter didn’t exist back then. Please spend time analyzing the media “coverage” of the terrorist attack in Chapel Hill!

    • Jackdaw on February 12, 2015, 12:54 pm

      Thanks for bringing the Jews into this tragedy.
      Just shows where you and your ilk are coming from.

      • on February 12, 2015, 5:44 pm

        You can bet your ass it is Jewish influence/pressure pushing “this is not a hate crime but about a dispute over a parking spot” narrative and ensuring the White House has nothing to say on this matter.

      • just on February 12, 2015, 6:23 pm

        This is about crimes against Muslims, threats against Muslims, and Islamophobia.

        The terrorist JDL/KKK is baaack in Montreal.

        Squawk among yourselves, Jackdaw.

      • Marnie on February 13, 2015, 5:15 am

        What you should be complaining about Jackdaw is the fact that the smallest population has been granted the influence it has. It’s dangerous for them and everyone else. If it was possible, please God, Jewish pressure groups would be marginalized to the point of never being able to influence American policymakers, and the rest of the world BTW, to only be concerned and make concessions for the wants and desires of a very small minority, i.e., what’s good for the Jews (only) and above all for demanding policymakers in the US and UN turn a blind eye to every shitty thing being done in the “historic homeland of the Jewish people” to the people who have as much of a stake in the land, if not more, than the newly arrived settlers/cowboys stealing every parcel of that land, made possible by the continued pressure applied by AIPAC, et al, and the eager to please whores on Capitol Hill.

    • Kay24 on February 12, 2015, 1:54 pm

      Harper must have invited them. He is yet another Israel firster, Canadian style.

    • oldgeezer on February 12, 2015, 2:45 pm

      Weinstein has a significant police record. He uses the same tactics as outlaw mc clubs to shield the jdl. Which is appropriate given the commonality of criminal behaviour and general thuggishness. He claims he is acting on his own and not as part of the jdl etc.

      The jdl certainly should be put on canada’s terrorist list. The entire purpose of the group is criminal violence for political ends.

  5. Walid on February 12, 2015, 11:10 am

    Just, I didn’t say anything about rising up but simply toning down a bit until the dust settles. Samah says things like :

    “… we can’t let the constant fear-mongering drive us into silence like they want it to.”‘ and “… we can’t stop speaking – even if our voices shake.” and “… We must not be afraid, apologetic or embarrassed to identify ourselves as a Muslims.”

    I’m just saying that the time is not right. Of course, no Moslem should permanently stop speaking or be proud to show his faith, but not now. Maybe a bit later. You said it yourself that the crazy movie must be having an effect.

    There are times when the right thing is the wrong thing to do. What Samah is saying is right; I’m saying wait a bit.

    • on February 12, 2015, 5:46 pm


      The Muslims should pipe down as they are murdered. The time is not right?

      You sick SOB

    • Rashid.M on February 13, 2015, 4:16 am

      I think I understand where Walid is coming from, and even though the wish for such a (pull back for the moment) response from Muslims is on one level completely understandable, I don’t think it’s the correct approach, even in the short term. A ‘small target’ strategy won’t relieve pressure at a time of fluid international events affecting the US, and the mainstream media’s role in their interpretation and propagation, as well as their influence on the domestic environment and agenda when it comes to Islam’s and Muslims’ place in the public imagination. That’s not to say that Muslims should ever display short sighted and reactionary defiance to vilification, or anything other than humility and good citizenship. But the right to equal safety and equally fair standards of treatment and judgement in 21st century United States, is surely a ‘line in the sand’ minimum expectation.

      What’s needed is not less mosques, but more ‘open mosque days’, more conversation, more interaction, more outreach, and more shared experiences. That means giving greater accessibility to yourself, not less – with all the dangers and challenges that entails.

      • Walid on February 13, 2015, 5:02 pm

        “… That’s not to say that Muslims should ever display short sighted and reactionary defiance to vilification, or anything other than humility and good citizenship. -” (Rachid)

        That’s all I was trying to convey in my garbled words, Rachid, I used the word “timing” but you said it more eloquently and elaborated on it. I wasn’t just thinking about this particular sad event but to what’s happening in general in areas of the US and Canada. I respect your opinion in not agreeing even in the short term, as you called it but you are very right in saying that more open mosque days, more conversation more outreach and so on are needed. How could a Moslem want to see less mosques?

  6. Marnie on February 12, 2015, 12:36 pm

    Walid – I mean no offense here at all, but don’t you think the civil rights movement had their share of folks who told African Americans “not now, maybe a bit later”. 50+ years post Selma, many of them are still waiting for their time to come because the US is a racist country. Why should anyone be waiting now?

    • Walid on February 12, 2015, 3:55 pm

      No offence at all taken, Marnie, I welcome discussion, and this is just a personal opinion. I was talking about a wait of days and at most weeks only simply to let emotions settle down. It’s about winning a war versus wining battles. Bush & Company succeeded in turning many into Islamophobes with the 9-1-1 caper and at this point, the Moslems are at a disadvantage because of it. The creeps beheading people or setting fire to them are fueling the misguided cause of the Islamophobes. You can’t compare the predicament of Moslems with that of the African Americans. In the case of the African Americans, people mostly held their noses but in the case of the Moslems, there are Americans that firmly believe that these want to butcher them in their sleep.

      • Marnie on February 13, 2015, 1:32 am

        Walid – thanks for your reply and I respect your opinion too. If you look at history the biggest fear white people had (some still have) is African American men taking their women. It’s what they thought was the real reason behind the struggle for “equal rights”. (This is in so many books on this particular period, it’s very well-documented.) Crazy, right? There were many who believe African Americans were violent thugs and will rob them and murder them (Ferguson brought up a lot of the old hatreds, myths and vitriol of the so-called past). I was not attempting to diminish the more recent struggle of Muslims (of whom there are more than a couple African Americans BTW) with the continuing struggle of African Americans.

  7. annie on February 12, 2015, 12:57 pm

    thank you Samah, thank you for writing us. my emotions since the shooting – i can’t stop thinking of them. i find it hard to face, to comprehend the full direness and loss. even finding the words to express this.

  8. just on February 12, 2015, 7:12 pm

    Via Max Blumenthal’s twitter:

    “California assemblywoman @asmMelendez calls on her constituents to “stand up against Islam””

    Her tweet: “Gut wrenching news today. American Kayla Mueller murdered by Islamic savages. There MUST be consequences”

    Navy vet, republican, Islamophobe.

    • Marnie on February 13, 2015, 1:38 am

      Isn’t that is phony as a 3 dollar bill? People who don’t give a damn about Kayla Mueller (probably calling her out for her humanitarian efforts as on +972 – the posts were all taken down because of one particularly horrible poster’s unyielding vitriol), but is cheaply and cynically using her murder to further her own personal/political agenda. Or maybe it’s Ms. Melendez’ PTSD talking?

    • oneangrycomic on February 13, 2015, 9:52 am

      Did Melendez know that Kayla Mueller was working in Palestine to keep ILLEGAL SETTLERS from hurting children trying to get to school?

  9. ASBizar on February 12, 2015, 9:24 pm

    Some strong writer should write critically about New Atheists and eviscerate the hatred that their movement espouses. This is the right time to dissect it and expose its dangers.

  10. just on February 12, 2015, 10:04 pm

    “FBI launches new investigation into Chapel Hill killings, as thousands mourn in Raleigh

    RALEIGH — As thousands of mourners prayed for the three Muslim-American students killed in Chapel Hill this week, the FBI opened its own investigation into the case Thursday.

    In a brief news release late in the day, the FBI said it had launched “a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case.” The FBI had previously been called in to assist the Chapel Hill police in processing evidence from the crime scene; the new inquiry could broaden the case’s jurisdiction and potentially bolster the charges against the suspect.

    The FBI’s announcement came hours after a somber funeral, where 5,500 mourners gathered at N.C. State University. Crowds knelt on a large blue tarp spread on a university soccer field across the street from an Islamic center in West Raleigh.

    Three caskets – one gray, one white, one silver – were carried on the shoulders of men who chanted as they entered the field. The caskets were placed on the field, an imam sang the call to prayer and the crowd fell silent. There were several separate prayers, and the mourners bowed down, placing their heads to the ground.

    Afterward, the three were buried in an Islamic cemetery near Wendell.

    Police have said a parking dispute may have led to the slayings, though families think the motive involved animosity based on the victims’ Muslim faith.

    The father of the two women who died, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, took the stage at the funeral and called on President Barack Obama to have the FBI carefully examine the motivation behind the slayings.

    “This has hate crime written all over it,” Abu-Salha said, his voice rising.

    ‘Let’s stand up’

    He added: “If they don’t listen carefully I will yell, and everybody else will. All honest Americans, they’re all here – white and black, and all colors and shapes. So let’s stand up – real and honest – and see what these three children were martyred about. It was not about a parking spot.”

    Abu-Salha said this is not about revenge or punishment but about protecting every other child of any faith or ethnic background.”

    Read more here:

  11. Spring Renouncer on February 13, 2015, 2:26 am

    Why is this act not being labelled terrorism, as it should? Where are the huge marches of solidarity, the flood of foreign dignitaries, the air of resentment against the supposedly “guilty class”? Of course how could this be terrorism, who would the US bomb in this case?

    • just on February 13, 2015, 3:20 pm


      I said it when I heard about it. I’ve said it many times before with all of the mass shootings in the US that have been perpetrated by Americans……

  12. ivri on February 13, 2015, 5:58 am

    It is certainly no fun to be at the receiving end of terror. The thousands trapped in those planes aimed at the twin tower and those inside them can attest to that.

    • annie on February 13, 2015, 1:08 pm

      so can all the thousands of innocent in iraqis slaughtered by our military and because of our invasion. and the thousands trapped in gaza slaughtered by israel. all the drone victims, the list goes on and on.

  13. Kathleen on February 13, 2015, 11:11 am

    Another horrific hate crime. Yet on our main stream outlets these murders only make it so far up the front pages. Say for instance at Huffington Post. The horrible Kayla killing was up at front and center for over 24 hours. These brutal killings have never made it to front and center at the USA Today of Blogs. What does this say about the U.S. media outlets and what killings they are willing to focus on. If these young people were Jewish or Christians the killings would be front and center. Chris Matthews would be going ballistic along with Bill Maher etc.

    So telling…such an ugly story about whose lives the MSM value

  14. Hatim Kanaaneh on February 13, 2015, 12:38 pm

    “We are Muslims, and we are humans, and we are breathing things with dreams and goals and voices and lives …”

    Thank you Samah for this,
    Here is an attempt to further sanctify our humanity. I wrote it today in a response to a posting by Jewish Voice for Peace:

    What Is in a Name?
    I wager that the hate criminal who assassinated “the Three Winners” in Chapel Hill acted mainly out of ignorance. Had he comprehended the literal meaning of their names and realized that these foreign looking young people had apparently lived and acted under the moral obligation inspired by their names, he would have chosen others to kill. The mainstream media seems to take the crime in its stride and not accord it much attention. Those who did apparently took it as another exceptional event committed by a crazy individual acting alone on his vengeance motive against neighbors with whom he had a running argument over a parking space. That is the automatic explanation given the commonality of the offender’s characteristics: a white nominal Christian who is uncomfortable with people of different culture and looks. The responsible law enforcement authorities in North Carolina, as in most other locales across the USA, may well find the man to suffer from temporary insanity. But I am not absolving him of responsibility for his crime on such basis. Rather, even with his deep-seated hate of Islam and apparently of religiosity in general, I still think that simple ignorance must have had much to do with his criminal thinking and action. I don’t think that any human being with average intelligence and a conscience, flawed, dark and clouded as it may well be, , would have opted to kill three people with as much decency and potential of service to mankind.

    Just dwell with me for a moment please on the deeper meaning of the names of the three people that Chapel Hill has lost. Accept for a moment please my simplistic assumption that, as innocent children or perhaps as ambitious young adults, they must have contemplated the meaning of their names and possibly aspired to act on the basis of their essence. We all know that children do that, don’t they? And who knows that better than Dr. Muhammad abu-Salha, the psychiatrist father of Yusor and Razan: First the family names: Barakat – Blessings – inspires a sense of decency and goodwill. Match that, if you will, with Abu-Salha – The One with Benevolence or of the Benevolent Deed. Now to the first names of “the Three Winners:” Razan had the least common sounding name, at least to my ear. Is that because of its Kurdish origin in one interpretation? Or is it because of abstract connotation of its Arabic root of respectability and aloofness. In contrast Deah’s bright ‘Lights’ shine on his surroundings. And it is combined with the second name of Shaddy, the ‘singer’ of pleasant tunes. Take a look at this recent video where he asks for donations in support of his pet project of reaching out to Syrian refugees in Turkey with dental supplies and equipment. You can see how luminous and sweet-sounding the young man’s promise was to the needy whether in his homeland of Syria or in his adopted home of North Carolina where he volunteered to care for the destitute and homeless. No wonder his target of $20,000 has been exceeded fifteen folds with168 days still to go. As to his bride, Yusor, you hear the name and your heart opens to the promise of ‘respite’ and ‘relief.’ In the Koran the good Lord reassures all believers; “Inna m’aa el-‘usri yusra – Verily relief will accompany hardship,” the promise sustaining Moslems under the most devastating of calamities, a refrain that must be repeating endlessly in the minds and hearts of the bereaved families in their hour of need and shattering loss.

    The fiercest animals of prey are known to respond favorably to the kindness and good intentions of their keepers. Shouldn’t the jailors of the criminal assassin consider a session or two with an Arab linguist who could explain to the man the tender and decent essence of the names of his victims? Or would that be too harsh a punishment, I wonder, assuming he has a heart at all and a mind to comprehend? The American mainstream media first abstained from reporting this event altogether. Then it quoted the law-enforcement authority in offering a parking space dispute as the explanation for the murder. Does that represent the condition of its readership of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and saying no evil, and by extension of allowing no remediation of evil? Let us hope not. Let us all take to heart the inspirational meaning of those lovely Arabic names as a healing potion. Let us pray for all of us including the atheists!

    • just on February 13, 2015, 3:18 pm

      I was waiting to go and savor your article, Hatim, but wanted to revisit Samah’s important article first. And here I found another of your gifts.

      What you write here is so true and profound. I read (somewhere) that the murderer was bothered by the loud voices speaking Arabic (that’s not to say that he knew what Arabic sounds like!), but it is clear that he was ignorant of not only the meaning of their names, but also not appreciative of the lyricism of their language; rather, he appears to have been resentful of it, and only attuned to the “foreignness/otherness/Muslim(ness)” of these 3 beautiful and talented Americans~ good Americans who happened to be Muslim and bilingual (at least!).

      Thank you for your soothing and inspirational words.

    • just on February 13, 2015, 5:54 pm

      This is an amazing article and interview with Farris Barakat:

      “Brother Of Chapel Hill Shooting Victim Shares His Pain, Grief, And Solace

      Hours after Farris Barakat buried his brother, Deah, he opened up to BuzzFeed News about coming to terms with the violent death, and how his faith is helping him cope.”

  15. just on February 13, 2015, 5:37 pm

    “Anti-terrorism summit reinforces ‘fear and hate’ towards Muslims, critics warn

    Muslim leaders say White House conference to ‘counter violent extremism’ is well intentioned but risks stigmatizing and endangering Muslims in America

    As Barack Obama prepares to host a summit on preventing homegrown terrorism, he faces a backlash from those he says he wants to empower: American Muslim community leaders, who warn that the summit risks stigmatizing and even endangering them.

    Hanging over the “countering violent extremism” (CVE) summit, to be held Tuesday through Thursday at the White House and State Department, is Wednesday’s brutal murder of three Muslim students in North Carolina.

    In the wake of the killings, Muslim leaders, some of whom met with Obama recently, say that whatever the summit’s intentions, it will reinforce a message that American Muslims are to be hated and feared, a spark in what they consider to be a powder-keg of Islamophobia in the media and online.

    Khera, the director of Muslim Advocates, was in attendance. While ground rules forbade her from discussing what Obama said, she told the Guardian that she called on Obama to address “an uptick in ferocity of anti-Muslim vitriol from everyday Americans”, including “public officials who should know better”, like a state representative in Oklahoma, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, who called Islam a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out”,

    Muslim leaders fear tensions, accelerating after the release of the film American Sniper and the Paris attacks, have reached a bloody crescendo with the North Carolina shooting.

    Though local police have said they believe Craig Steven Hicks killed the three over a parking dispute, the family has rejected that explanation, suspecting an Islamophobic motive. The Muslim Public Affairs Council has launched a campaign for Obama, Holder and congressional leaders to address the killings. The FBI has opened a federal inquiry into the shooting deaths.

    In a statement on Friday, Obama welcomed the FBI inquiry into the “brutal and outrageous murders” in North Carolina. “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” the president said, offering his condolences to the families of the slain.

    Though community leaders have noted that CVE programs do not target white supremacists or call atheist organizations in for dialogue, Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said next week’s summit will not single out Muslims.

    “While the summit will address contemporary challenges, it will not focus on any particular religion, ideology, or political movement and will, instead, seek to draw lessons that are applicable to the full spectrum of violent extremists,” Price said.”

    1) The President finally speaks.

    2) From the article:

    “In September, the attorney general, Eric Holder, announced new CVE pilot programs in Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis to “develop comprehensive local strategies” – shortly after the Islamic State beheadings of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley. The forthcoming summit was delayed last fall without explanation, only to reappear on the White House agenda after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.”

    “Interesting”, eh?

    • Walid on February 13, 2015, 6:37 pm

      “… Muslim leaders say White House conference to ‘counter violent extremism’ is well intentioned but risks stigmatizing and endangering Muslims in America –

      … In the wake of the killings, Muslim leaders, some of whom met with Obama recently, say that whatever the summit’s intentions, it will reinforce a message that American Muslims are to be hated and feared, a spark in what they consider to be a powder-keg of Islamophobia in the media and online.

      “… Muslim leaders fear tensions, accelerating after the release of the film American Sniper and the Paris attacks, have reached a bloody crescendo with the North Carolina shooting.” (Guardian article)

      What do these leaders know about what’s going on? They need Kraus and Giles to straighten them out. Counting to ten is for woosies.

      • tree on February 13, 2015, 7:29 pm

        Walid, I think you are way off base here. They aren’t “counting to ten” they are addressing the problem now instead of “counting to ten” as you proposed. You are the one offering advice that Farhana Khera is not following:

        Khera, the director of Muslim Advocates, was in attendance. While ground rules forbade her from discussing what Obama said, she told the Guardian that she called on Obama to address “an uptick in ferocity of anti-Muslim vitriol from everyday Americans”, including “public officials who should know better”, like a state representative in Oklahoma, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, who called Islam a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out”,


        The killing of Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, “really underscores how dangerous it is for the US government, including the White House, to focus its countering violent extremism initiatives primarily on American Muslims”, said Farhana Khera, the executive director of civil rights law firm Muslim Advocates.

        “We’ve long said to the administration, to those in government, that directing the bulk of CVE resources to US Muslims undermines the safety of all of us and endangers US Muslims, because it sends the message our community is to be viewed with fear, suspicion and even hate.”

        Khera is bringing up Islamophobia and the US government’s involvement in nurturing it as it relates to the killings. There is no temporary silence on her part, as you counciled. She’s more in line with Krauss and Giles than she is with your viewpoint.

      • DaBakr on February 13, 2015, 8:55 pm

        khere is saying that focusing too much attention and money SPECIFICALLY on Muslim Americans will (or may) lead to further islamaphophia by “sending a message” to some Americans that Muslims are getting preferential treatment and that this would be either resented, feared or hated. Why would she say this? I’m not sure but it surely means she is worried about the lowest denomination of American and their propensity for unbridled violence. I accept that there is Islamophobia in the US but I do not think it is any more dangerous to be a Muslims then it is other minorities on other environments in the US. I also don’t view the US as violent a place as many anti-gun advocates do-but thats another argument.

        oddly-as an outsider here on MW I can see both Walids reasoning and see why he is taking so much flak. Walid is saying what many think but are not comfortable saying out loud. It is much easier to take the reactionary position that something needs to be done right now and immediately. But what? What really makes people who hate stop hating? I doubt it would be a national scolding given mostly by those on the political left. this is why I would urge caution in jumping on the ‘hate-crime’ band wagon with this triple murder. Not because it isn’t ‘hate’ but because its not a strong enough case to warrant a major campaign. After all-I think if you went to any poor urban area populated with Black or Hispanic Americans and mentioned 3 murders they would be surprised if it caused a national anti-hate campaign

      • Walid on February 13, 2015, 11:50 pm

        Tree, you took my slow approach to be a zero approach. I don’t believe in fighting fire with fire especially when most of the media is lined up against me, but I definitely believe in fighting. In spite of what some here are insisting in believing is my message, staying back and doing nothing to face Islamophobia is not at all what I’m saying. It’s the difference of working fast and hard at countering it and working smart and slow for a long term result. Rachid described the smart ways it could be done and Hatem Kanaaneh’s post above is another. Good Moslems which surely constitute the great majority of all Moslems waited too long to speak up against what the others have been doing in their name and they’re still not speaking up. We are now hearing more about Hick’s non-religion and his parking spot problem than about the good and charitable lives that were led by the victims.

        Khera is right to be demanding that Obama gets involved with what some public officials are saying but what is Khera demanding of the Moslem community?

  16. just on February 13, 2015, 9:06 pm

    “In the religious tradition that gives shape to my life, justice is love; justice is simply what we call love when it comes into the public arena.

    Our public arena in North Carolina at this moment feels anything but just. Three beautiful young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were taken from us when a gun-obsessed, self-avowed militant atheist named Craig Hicks allegedly killed them in their own homes in a gruesome execution-style murder. It breaks my heart to see how a few minutes of vile hatred and 10 bullets undid decades of love and sacrifice that went into raising those beautiful people.

    But it is up to all of us to bring the love and justice back into the public spaces, even while we feel vulnerable.

    Eventually, we will have to turn our attention from the crime committed this week, however it is defined by the law, to the system that produced the crime. Though almost all of us are convinced that this was a crime of hate – and possibly a hate crime in the narrow criminal and legal sense – the more important question is how we are going to introduce love and justice back into the public arena, and how to insist on the dignity and sanctity of all our lives.”

    ~ and, sadly/frighteningly~

    “HOUSTON (KTRK) — Fire officials now say an accelerant was used in a fire broke that out at an Islamic community and education center in southeast Houston early Friday morning, and now a group is calling for an investigation into whether the fire was the result of a possible hate crime.

    Houston fire officials say the fire at the Quba Islamic Institute started around 5am. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but we’ve learned HFD says the accelerant was used, which usually points to a purposeful act.

    That call comes as Ahsan Zahid, assistant Imam at the institute, says he spoke with the Houston arson investigator about their preliminary results.

    Zahid said, “They said their dog went through and he hit on some substances inside the place, and he said, ‘From what I see right now at this point, I have to say it was an incendiary fire which means that it was started on purpose.’ That’s all we can go on at this point. I don’t want to speculate.”

    Though we don’t know officially if the cause was accidental or deliberate, the FBI is now monitoring the situation.”

  17. just on February 14, 2015, 1:59 am

    Rania Khalek:

    “Victim’s sister: It’s open season on Muslims who are dehumanized by politicians, media & movies like @AmericanSniper …”

  18. annie on February 26, 2015, 1:54 am

    it’s now been over 2 weeks since the gruesome murders of dear deah, yusor and razan. and i have found some relief from the shock and horror, enough so that i can say something for i was so impacted before i just wept for days. i couldn’t in any way shape or form write about it here. all i could do was send updates that were flying back and forth w/staff. but my voice was gone, it was too personally horrific. it was if ..something about my country, a great grief about who we may become or who we are. and the preciousness of these three incredible people, the loss of never have known them, as if i knew them. just flooding thru me reading everything i could possibly find. anywhere and everywhere. watching a video of deah, yusor and razan and friends doing the harlem shake brought me some sense off relief tho i don’t know why. to see them so free perhaps.

    I vividly remember the times I was called a terrorist in school growing up, spat at verbally and scolded with words that dug through my heart like the sharpest of knives. I refuse to minimize the impact these moments had on my self-esteem and self-worth, especially when my family members and friends have been assaulted in public simply for wearing a head covering, because their names sounded foreign or even because they wear beards.

    samah, i know you wrote this letter to your fellow muslim americans (and not me). but i refuse to minimize the impact of what you’ve gone through too. it’s like a knife piercing me reading those words. the shame it casts on us, as americans, as people, as humans, that you have endured this. it should not happen anywhere, ever – including here. praying for a better world. these times we won’t forget.

    • Walid on February 26, 2015, 2:15 am

      Nice words, warm feelings, Annie.

    • Samah Assad on February 26, 2015, 1:19 pm

      Annie, although I addressed this letter to Muslim Americans, its true purpose was to touch everyone. Thank you so much for your words of kindness and support, as well as the opportunity to let all of our voices be heard during these times.

  19. Walid on February 26, 2015, 1:44 pm

    Hi Samah, now that the anger is slowly fading away, the pain of seeing the lives of 3 beautiful people cut short for no reason is hurting even more. Looking forward to your next article here.

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