Why can’t media describe Chapel Hill murders as terrorism?

Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha. (via social media)

Today marks one week since 23-year-old Yousef Abu-Salha’s younger sisters — Yusor, 21, and Razan, 19 — were murdered by their neighbor. Yousef told The Electronic Intifada over the the phone from North Carolina that he has no doubt their murder was an anti-Muslim hate crime.

The women were executed along with Yusor’s husband, 23-year-old Deah Barakat, in the newlywed couple’s condominium. 

All three were remarkable individuals devoted to helping the disenfranchised at home and refugees abroad. As their social media posts demonstrate, the plight of Syrian and Palestinian refugees were particularly near and dear to their hearts. In fact, Razan and Yusor were of Palestinian descent, which has been largely glossed over in the media coverage of their deaths. 

Originally from the port city of Jaffa, the Abu-Salha family was driven out of historic Palestine by Zionist militias in 1948. Yousef’s father was subsequently born in Jordan and raised in Kuwait. His mother, whose maiden name is al-Azzeh, was born in al-Bireh, a city in the occupied West Bank

Yousef and Yusor, both born in Jordan, are dual Jordanian-American citizens. Their parents immigrated to the United States when they were little. The family moved to Virginia beach in 1993, where Razan was born. Soon afterwards, the Abu-Salhas moved to North Carolina, eventually settling down in Raleigh, where the children spent most of their lives.  

After learning there had been a shooting, Yousef said his parents immediately suspected that Yusor and Deah, who weren’t answering their phones, had been shot by the neighbor they had on so many occasions expressed fear of. The families rushed to the apartment complex for confirmation of their worst fears. But for five grueling hours, police refused to tell them whether their loved ones were shot and if so, whether they were alive or dead. 

The agonizing suspense was captured in a video report by the local news station WNCN, in which Deah Barakat’s father is seen pleading with officers to tell him whether his son is dead or alive. 

It came as “a huge shock” when Yousef learned that Razan had also been killed. “I had no idea that my youngest baby sister was visiting,” he said. 

By Wednesday morning, the police declared that the shooting was motivated by an ongoing parking dispute, a conclusion that appeared to be based almost entirely on the killer’s account. 

“Gun toting” atheist

Craig Stephen Hicks, the 46-year-old white man who executed Yusor, Razan and Deah with what the family says were bullets to the back of the head, hated religion. 

A self-described “gun-toting” atheist, Hicks’s Facebook postings were devoted almost exclusively to expressing hostility towards religion. Commenting on Christians, Muslims and Jews, Hicks said in one post, “I wish they would exterminate each other!” 

According to residents, Hicks was a threatening and aggressive neighbor who acted as a self-appointed watchman of the condominium complex obsessed with parking spaces and noise. He called the local towing company so frequently about parking issues that the company stopped responding to his calls and had him banned.

“Yusor and Deah told us that one time [Hicks] knocked on their door and told them they were being too loud, with his gun at his waist,” recalled Yousef. “I knew in my head this was hate because of who my sister was and how she looked — she wore the headscarf proudly,” he added, noting that the violent harassment didn’t begin until Yusor moved in with Deah. “Even then my sister sympathized with him. She said maybe this man has been influenced negatively by the media and she was going to show him the truth about Muslims by showing him kindness.”

Yousef added that Deah, Yusor and their friends saw Hicks brandish several different guns. So Yousef was not suprised when law enforcement discovered an arsenal of more than a dozen firearms in Hicks’ home, along with several loaded magazines and a massive cache of ammunition.

Yusor Abu-Salha and Deah Barakat (via social media)

Deah and Yusor went out of their way to avoid angering Hicks.

“Deah used to send us a picture of the parking map and highlight the numbers we could park in,” recalled Yousef. 

But it wasn’t enough to stop Hicks from invading their home and murdering them in cold blood. Nor has Hicks’ barbaric crime compelled the media to reflect on its role in inciting against Muslims and Arabs. 

“It’s a shame that you turn on a major news channel and you see a news story about ISIS and then they’ll cover our story and they do an okay job, but immediately after it will be another story about these radical groups,” remarked Yousef. “I think it sends US citizens a bad message that these Muslims are all the same.”

Withholding gruesome details

Meanwhile, authorities have kept a tight lid on the manner in which the three victims were killed. 

Yousef said the family is “as clueless” as the public. However, he did see the bodies of the three victims before burial. “It appeared that Deah and Yusor put up a fight,” he said.

Deah Barakat’s brother, Farris, told the website BuzzFeed that he noticed some of Deah’s teeth were knocked out, a cruel irony given Deah’s profession in dentistry. 

In the call to 911 dispatchers, a woman reported hearing around eight gunshots and “more than one girl screaming and then there was nothing and then I heard about three more shots go off.”  

Though police have yet to release a coroner’s report or play-by-play of how the crime unfolded, some insight can be gleaned from search warrants released on Friday.

“According to the search warrants, a woman flagged down police and directed them to Barakat’s and Yusor Abu-Salha’s condo, saying her friend was bleeding,” reported WRAL. “When officers arrived, they found Barakat dead in the front doorway bleeding from the head; one of the sisters was found in the kitchen, and the other was in the doorway to the kitchen. Police found eight shell casings in the living room of the condo and a bullet somewhere inside, according to a second warrant.”

Three days after the murders, Deah Barakat’s sister, Suzanne, revealed that police had yet to interview her family members, adding that it was “insulting, insensitive and outrageous” to blame the triple homicide on a parking dispute, especially since “on the day of the murders, the parking spot that was ‘disputed’ had no car in it.” 

That changed on Saturday, when, according to Yousef, the families met with local and federal law enforcement officials, who are now investigating whether the murders were motivated by hate. Chapel Hill police chief Christopher Blue sincerely apologized to the families for the initial police statement, according to Yousef. The family, he added, was satisfied and understanding. 

Double standards

Appearing on CNN, Suzanne Barakat slammed the inconsistent application of the “terrorism” label:

Had roles been reversed and the man was Muslim, was of Arab descent, was of South Asian descent, this would have immediately been labeled an act of terror. I haven’t heard anyone use the term terrorist here. Why the double standard? He has terrorized our families. He has terrorized our lives. He has terrorized our community locally, nationally and internationally and it’s time that people call it for what it is.

Suzanne’s analysis was proven right the very next day, when a gunman opened fire at a Copenhagen café during “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” an event hosted by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Three police officers were injured and a film director was killed.

Danish police believe the target of the shooting was Vilks. Vilks has faced threats on his life in the past over his offensive drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog, artwork that has gained him international notoriety.

Hours later, the gunman opened fire outside a synagogue, injuring several police officers and killing a Jewish security guard who was standing watch outside a bat mitzvah

Within hours the Obama administration issued condolences and offered assistance.

In stark contrast it took Barack Obama three days to utter a word about the execution-style murder of three Muslims in his own country, and he did so only after being shamed for his silence on the international stage. 

Still, Obama’s condolences meant the world to Yousef. “I broke down in tears when I read his message and the fact that he quoted my sister was really humbling,” he told me, adding that the family feels no animosity towards Obama for waiting so long to speak out. “We know President Barack Obama is a busy man.” 

While the Abu-Salha and Barakat families continued to demonstrate forgiveness and understanding, the corporate press devolved into hysterical fear-mongering at the first sign of violence potentially committed by a Muslim. 

Danish authorities immediately categorized the attacks as “terrorism” based on nothing more than the suspected ethnicity of the still unidentified gunman and the identities of his victims. And the international press corps followed suit.

The suspected gunman, who was killed in a shootout with police, was later identified by local media as Omar el-Hussein, a Danish-born 22-year-old with a violent criminal past unrelated to religious extremism. Two weeks prior to his shooting spree, el-Hussein was released from prison where he was serving time for stabbing a passenger on a commuter train. A petty criminal with possible gang affiliations, el-Hussein exhibited characteristics common to mass shooters. According to people who knew him, he suffered from anxiety and never quite fit in. 

There is no indication he was involved in a larger terror cell and the head of PET — Denmark’s domestic security agency — concluded that he never traveled to Syria or Iraq as a Jihadist fighter and had no known ties to last month’s Paris attackers. And his motives remain unknown. 

Yet the overwhelming consensus among media outlets and Western government officials is that his was an act of terrorism by an Islamic radical.

Meanwhile, media outlets have managed to portray Chapel Hill killer Craig Stephen Hicks as a defender of freedom in spite of his murderous rampage. The Associated Press ran the headline ”Shooting suspect slams religion while defending liberty” in a piece profiling Hicks, which ends by citing the “precious video link” Hicks shared on his Facebook page of a “dachshund puppy, repeatedly dinging a small silver bell with its paw to receive a treat.”

“Murderous misfits”

If the reaction to the Denmark attacks isn’t evidence enough of a glaring double standard, then the response to the recently foiled mass shooting plot in Canada certainly is. 

Over the weekend Canadian authorities thwarted a Valentine’s Day attack on a Halifax shopping mall. The three attackers — all white youths, including one American woman who traveled to Canada specifically to carry out the attack — were prepared to kill as many citizens as possible and then themselves. 

But Canadian officials refused to categorize the suspects as terrorists. 

“I would classify it as a group of individuals that had some beliefs and were willing to carry out violent acts against citizens, but there’s nothing in the investigation to classify it as a terrorist attack,” declared Brian Brennan, a commanding officer with the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” proclaimed Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who described the suspects as “murderous misfits.” 

Contrary to official claims, the suspects left an online trail of social media posts that show an infatuation with Nazis and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenagers who killed twelve people and injured another 21 at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

According to her online presence, Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, the American woman believed to be the leader of the band of so-called “murderous misfits,” is an avowed neo-Nazi with deep admiration for Adolf Hitler, white separatists and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. 

Had an American Muslim with an online jihadist profile traveled to another country to carry out an attack in concert with local Muslims, it’s difficult to imagine the press corps and law enforcement ruling out terrorism and “cultural motivations” as factors.

“Open season” on Muslims

While many united in horror against the Chapel Hill murders, Islamophobes seem to have hardened in their hatred. 

A Muslim school in Rhode Island was vandalized with graffiti over the weekend that said ”Die Pig” and “Fuck Allah Now This Is A Hate Crime.” 

A 55-year-old white man named Darryl Ferguson set fire to the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, Texas, on Friday morning. The fire came just days after a masked man threatened people outside of the building. 

Hours after the Chapel Hill murders, Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, California, implored her followers to “#StandUpAgainstIslam” in a tweet about the death of Islamic State hostage and Palestine solidarity activist Kayla Mueller.

In Bothell, Washington, a Hindu temple was tagged with a swastika and the words “get out” —  possibly by someone who confused a Hindu house of worship for a mosque. A middle school down the block was similarly vandalized with a swastika and the words ”Muslims get out.”

As Suzanne Barakat pointed out, it is “open season” on Muslims in the US, thanks in large part to incitement from politicians, vilification in the media and the dehumanization of Muslims in movies like American Sniper, which inspired a deluge of death threats aimed at Muslims and Arabs.

In spite of this hateful climate, Yousef said his family is comforted and inspired by the outpouring of love for Yusor, Razan and Deah. 

“We are getting pictures of vigils marches and prayers from everywhere — South America, Australia, South Africa, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan,” he said. “There are people that we used to pray for and cry for, and now they’re praying for and crying for us.”

The lives of his sisters and brother-in-law, he added, are “a testimony to the world of the true representation of the headscarf and Islam.”

“They did not die in vain,” Yousef declared. “They are influencing the world.”

Editor’s note: A previous version incorrectly stated that Razan was born in 1993 in Virginia Beach; instead, the family moved to Virginia Beach in 1993, where Razan was born. It has been corrected.




"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping


It doesn't fit the political agenda at all is why...In fact what happened here is the exact opposite of what they want. They want this 'story' gone,buried,white-washed away..Can you imagine the attention if this was a jewish family killed by a muslim? Or if a muslim with a gun entered a magazine store where filthy anti-muslim rants were commonly inserted in the magazine and people where killed? Can you imagine the media play then?


It is because America cannot see white men of Christian background as being "terrorists". It is beyond their ability to see anyone but Muslims as "terrorists" because that is what they are told. Doing so is outside their agenda when it comes to terrorism, silly and ignorant as that view is. Americans - and I am one - have been fed by the media the nonsense of who and what is terrorism.


The killing of these 3 beautiful people is a tragedy pure and simple. I don't see it as being terrorism because a terrorist kills for a cause. I don't see a cause nor really a motive. I just see an angry man who probably had a mental disorder. Unfortunately, that is never good when you add fire arms to the mix. Also, does it matter if it was terrorism? 3 beautiful people are still dead.


Because you have to be Muslim to see the "cause"and to feel it. The "ccause" was to incite fearin the hearts of Western Muslims. The cause wad to let them know they are not welcome. The cause was to tell the Muslims "to go back to their country" if you can't see that "cause" then I pity you.


He was a leftist atheist supporter of the ground zero mosque. They were killed over a parking spot.


You appear to be advocating for this murdering idiot out of thin air. There is easily a strong circumstantial case that these murders were hate crimes and that the killer should be subjected to a longer sentence if found guilty of committing a hate crime. As a practical matter, the local prosecutor may feel that the murderer will be sentenced to more than his lifetime in jail so it would unnecessarily complicate the trial to add to the state's burden by having to prove the additional elements of a hate crime. I believe, however, that he should be charged with a hate crime, given his history....and I would note that the fact that he lashed out a other groups has no relevance to whether, on the day of the murders, he intended a hate crime against the Muslims he killed. Clearly, since his wife or any advocate on the murder's behalf would have an interest in lessening the likelihood of the heightened sentencing the murderer would be subjected to if found guilty of a hate crime; any statement she or he makes should be taken with a pound of salt. I am in favor of not labeling this act as terrorism unless there is some statement by the murderer, shown by credible evidence, that shows he planned or intended for the murders to terrorize Muslims in general...every hate crime is not an act of terrorism despite the fact that its commission would understandably cause terror and horror in the hearts of all people's who identify themselves as being similar to the victims in terms of race, religion, or for other reasons. Moreover, calling every act that could be termed an act of terrorism without a showing the, on the date in question, it was intended to be one, gives what actual terrorists would perceive as "credit" and empowerment for a lone sick and demented wolf's individual act of horrific violence. If, however, a plan is discovered on the murderer's hard drive, for example, showing he planned to kill the innocents he killed to encourage violence against Muslims, "ism" it is.


Murder would come from hate and rage regardless of religion. So yes it is a hate crime! good work lol


From CNN: "Omar El-Hussein, who opened fire at a free speech forum and a synagogue in Copenhagen on Saturday, killing two people, swore fidelity to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on his Facebook page just before the shooting." spree. 


agree with the article 100%,but why are there no ei articles on the recent massacre of egyptian arabs in libya on sunday,or articles about the attacks on arab 'minorities' in they revolution in syria and iraq?


Hello… and Hello …!!!
It’s not a rocket science! If the violence/ crimes are commented by a Muslim, then it’s called terrorism. If the violence / crimes are commented by a white man with European decent then that indivisible is insane and need help. Look at the Oklahoma bomber, the many school shooting across the USA, the dude who smashed his plane to the IRS office in Texas,…… and on and on……
The problem is the main stream media in the west that keeps feeding the false information and plants the fair and the hatred of Muslims.
I remember 30 years ago when I migrated to the USA many of my classmates pointed to African American as criminals and thugs, to find later that they are very nice and sweet people, and as in every race there are some bad apples!
God bless CNN, and Fox! Cheers ignorance…..!!!!!


I don’t believe in distinguishing crimes by how much hate they were fueled by because the issue is the crime itself rather than the motivation. This definitely seems like a crime fueled by hate rather than terrorism. In fairness, I would push back against casually using the term to describe the same crime if it was a muslim who had killed acquainted, non-muslim neighbors. The term terrorism should really only be used in situations of impersonal targeting of strangers to further a political cause.


Although I am upset with my country and the majority of the world's treatment of Muslims, this article helped me see the three victims of this true terrorist act as humans. It talks about the good things they did, and the true meaning of Islam - peace. I am Jewish and as you all know, against Zionism, but somehow, Muslims like the three who were killed remind me of peace and the good things that humans can do. I am sad that they were killed, and even sadder that my country is treating Muslims, both here and abroad, in such a callous way. My calls and endless emails concerning Palestinian rights,to my local politicians go unanswered. Thanks Ali, for giving the world the gift of truth. Our journalists are lapdogs for the politicians and happy to have this news source available to me. Peace,
Jane Zacher
Philadelphia, Pa.
Turtle Island (U.S.A.)


Bin Laden?
Hebdo killers?
DC Sniper?

Seriously, list for me the "terrorists" who walked into a police station and gave themselves up. I think it's a short list. Some were captured alive, and some were killed in lieu of capture, but I can't think of a single one who walked into a police station and said "cuff me".

That's why the media doesn't describe these murders as terrorism. They were a heinous crime; they were not terrorism.


..Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, -and the rest of the traitors that knowingly manipulated this nation into two wars.
But seriously, could you make a weaker argument?
Plenty of criminals dont turn themselves in either, -that doesnt diminish their crime. The truth is there is no substantive difference between terrorism (what intelligence agencies generally engage in) and homicide. Perhaps to lawyers, ideologues and propagandists, but I assure you, to the victims and the their loved ones, there is no difference.
Historically, legally, in the US, there has also been no difference.
The fact is that "Terrorism" was added as separate category from where it always been and belongs, under: 'Homicide,' (the motive being irrelevant) in the annual mortality tables, (which btw, show that roughly 7k more Americans die every from aspirin than from 'terrorism') after the 2001 911/anthrax false flag attacks.


it was just an angry dude who when psycho on all his neighbors about his parking space. He scared othe non-Muslim neighbors too. He was also a leftist supporter of the ground zero mosque. He was not promoting any ideology by the act. He wanted them to stop using his spot, and had told them so, like all the other neighbors. They just happened to be the unlucky ones to get the bullets when he finally flipped completely out. Not terrorism. Just crazy. learn the difference.


This killer had had a ongoing conflict with these students who were Muslims for a long time. This guy was raised Christian. If he wants to say he is an atheist now he can say whatever he wants. He disliked the foreigners. He disliked the headscarfs. He disliked their assuming to be as entitled as he was to the parking lot and the sidewalks and the living complex. He resented their foreignness. He had long picked fights with them. Let's not get nonsensical here. This was a hate crime. It wasn't a terrorist attack, per se, but it was clearly a hate crime.


I'm atheist but I make it a point to respect whatever religion someone practices. I don't want them treading on my beliefs and morals why should I.


It's not being classified as terrorism because it does not fit the description. Terrorism is politically motivated violence against random members of the public. Terrorists proudly claim responsibility for their acts, resist arrest and kill as many people as they can before being killed or arrested. They don't kill their next door neighbors whom they've quarreled with and then turn themselves in to the police. This guy was an angry social misfit whose own daughter had cut off contact with him. He harassed and threatened many of his neighbors. His crime was heinous and the deaths tragic and heartbreaking. The warning signs were there and he should have been stopped long before it escalated to murder. I hope he is prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to life without parole in maximum security prison. And there's a better chance of this happening if the state doesn't overreach or bring the wrong charges or release too much
information and lose the case as a result.


This is a public forum, but why post if you disagree with Ali's journalist skills? It seems that more this publication gains strength, the more trolling, in the attempt to discredit the writers, occurs. It's like porn, if you don't like it, don't look at it. But this publication is not as cheap as porn and highly valued. Maybe that's why so many of you, try to cheapen it. Israel and those who support it's MURDEROUS actions, know their regime is coming to an end. The truth is the truth. If you are a North American Jew like me, who was brainwashed as a child, into believing we need a second country, just in case, look at all of the Holocaust survivors that denounce Israel. Listen to your heart. Does it tell it is ok to kill and treat others in a dehumanizing manner? Stand not only on the right side of history, but stand up. Take a stand with me against the treatment of our fellow human beings.
Jane Zacher
Philadelphia, PA Turtle Island


Peace to you as well, Maggie. When I read and look at the articles in this important publication, I can be heard crying as well as screaming at the behavior of my own people. I live around many Muslims and when my soul is in a negative flux, I talk to them. The women hold my hand, and always say, "Peace to you my sister". As a result, have learned the healing qualities of Islam. I hold on to my religion, because of my connection, to my cultural roots, and so blessed to have beautiful Muslims in my life, that have taught me so much about love in a good heart. Peace
and love,
Jane Zacher Student Philadelphia PA Turtle Island

Rania Khalek

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Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.