Yesterday, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were killed by Craig Stephen Hicks, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Mr. Hicks turned himself into custody. Two prominent theories circulating the internet as to what motivated this tragedy is that it had to do with a parking dispute, or that it had to do with the fact that the three victims were Muslims. It’s possible that both theories are in some form correct, although the opposite could be true as well.
Who were the victims? Deah Shaddy Barakat was attending the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, and although in his second year, had plans to go to Syria and assist refugees. His wife of only six weeks, Yusor Mohammad, had plans to begin dental school in August, and Razon Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor’s sister, was a student at North Carolina State Unviersity.
What do we know so far? We know, based on CNN’s reporting, that Mr. Hicks’ wife has held a news conference emphasizing a parking dispute, and not religion.
But, we also know that Mr. Hicks was an atheist, and an anti-theist. The two terms may seem to be similar, but that’s not necessarily true. Atheism just means that a person does not have a religion, believe in god, etc., whereas anti-theism is more of a grounded ideology opposed to the institution of religion, and all religions. That being said, many media outlets are doing two things: first, they’re focusing on the fact that the accused is an atheist, an anti-theist, and held progressive political ideas. The second thing that they’re doing, is pointing out that mass media, for the most part, has said very little on the matter.
That being said, I can get on board with the critique that mainstream media is not following with their due diligence to report the news. What I cannot get on board with, however, is the systematic, and in my perception, over emphasis on the political and religious beliefs of the person being accused.
- Atheist Tea Party hater, Rachel Maddow fan guns down 3 Muslims; MSM downplays his politics – BizPac Review
- Chapel Hill Shootting: Craig Stephen Hicks condemned all religions on Facebook prior to arrest for murder of three young Muslims – The Independent
- Suspected atheist in police custody after allegedly killing three Muslims in US – The Jerusalem Post
- ‘Vehement Atheist’ Charged with executing 3 Muslim students – Breitbart
- Craig Hicks, Chapel Hill Shooting Suspect, Reportedly Shared Atheist Beliefs on Facebook – Hiffington Post, Religion
- Progressive Atheist Kills 3 Muslim Students, Media Ignores – Daily Caller
While it may seem strange that my critique here is on integrity in media, i.e., not sensationalizing certain points of an issue to generate traffic, I believe the point is warranted here. I do, however, realize that this is a battle for a different day.
My overall point is this: so what that Mr. Hicks liked Rachel Maddow, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and did not believe in a supreme being? In fact, I would agree with Charles Cook from National Review Online, that none of that matters. The fault is Mr. Hicks’. 
And yet, it’s a sad day when it has been less than 24 hour since this event, and one side of political sphere has began the marketing campaign to suggest that liberals, progressives, and atheists are dangerous. The six examples above create that image, and it is that image that is dangerous.
It is dishonest, and distasteful to perpetuate the Atheism vs. Islam debate in this fashion.