Parking Space Terrorism: Time for Action after Killing of Three US Muslims
02 March 2015
By Ramzy Baroud
The murder of three American Muslims at a University of North Carolina
condominium on Tuesday, 10 February, was no ordinary murder, nor is the
criminal who killed them an ordinary thug. The context of the killings, the
murder itself and the media and official responses to the horrific event is a
testimony to everything that went wrong with our country since it unleashed
it's long-drawn-out ''war on terror'', with its undeclared, but sometimes
declared enemy, namely Islam and Muslims.
Horrific as it was, the killing of a husband and wife, Deah Shaddy Barakat,
Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, by homegrown terrorist,
Craig Stephen Hicks, is the kind of violence that can only fit into a greater
media and official narrative, which designates millions of innocent Muslims,
in the US or across the world as enemies or potential terrorists.
Countless television hours and endless space in numerous media has been
dedicated to vilify and demonize Muslims throughout recent years. Muslims'
attempts to distance themselves from every militant grouping, ideology and
tendency has done them no good. A Muslim is a terrorism suspect until proven
innocent, especially if a bearded, brown man, or a headscarf-clad woman.
The end result of that dehumanization has been racism, racial profiling,
extra-judicial killings and war. It was only a matter of time before that
violence reached the nominally safe Muslim communities in the US itself.
The Skewed Narrative
The episode of dehumanization is long, complex and protracted; also, quite
clever, for it involves billion-dollar media outfits and Hollywood itself,
which already has an awful track record regarding negative and stereotypical
representation of Arabs and Muslims.
The outcome is a whole industry that is predicated on double standards and
Imagine if a member of the Iraqi resistance, an Iraqi sniper, if you will,
killed 164 US soldiers, who were armed to the teeth and present in his
country as part of an invading force.
Imagine an Arab country financing a massive movie production detailing the
story of that Iraqi sniper, portraying him as a hero, and US soldiers as
How would US media, government and audiences react?
It would be an Arab-bashing fest. Few, if any, would dare rationalize his
deed, suggesting perhaps that he was a man defending his own country. What
would be emphasized thoroughly is the ''savage nature'' of the Arabs and
their innate hate for America and its noble values. The whole Arab creed
would be brutalized, those who made the movie, and those who celebrated the
heroics of the sniper.
An American Sniper, however, is not a fictitious illustration of a point, but
a bloody reality, itself a representation of the killing of millions of Arabs
and Muslims in America's wars.
Even relatively muted criticism of the evil deed of Chris Kyle – the hero of
the reality-turned movie, The American Sniper, who made a 164 confirmed
''kills'' during his four tours in Iraq because they were ''savages'' who
deserved to die – were shut out by a massive outcry from media and members of
society. American killers are heroes, regardless of what they do or stand
The enthusiasm for more military interventions and such heroics, as that of
Kyle, however vile, means that supposed ''moral awakening'' inspired by the
advent of President Barack Obama rarely registered in the collective psyche
of the nation. While there is ample evidence that Americans are ''tired'' of
war, that very war fatigue should not be conflated with a departure of the
type of dialectics that rationalized war in the first place.
In fact, while the cheerleaders for war might change political camps,
ideology or even religious philosophy, ultimately, they are the same breed of
people: a mostly white, male dominated and chauvinistic tribe of well-funded
politicians and media pundits, with an unquenchable thirst for
The 'New Atheists'
Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a
school of thought known as New Atheism, what religious scholar Reza Aslan
refers to as the school of ''anti-theism''. It is, in part, another
hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions,
their malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.
They, of course, are different from the majority of atheists, who don't use
that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group. The
anti-theist gods include the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, who,
according to Aslan, respond ''to religion with the same venomous ire with
which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism''.
In one of his Facebook posts, Hicks, a lover of guns, quoted Dawkins:
''The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the 'Day
of Prayer' in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible
faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the
first place: religion.''
But of course, not any religion, but Islam. Let alone that such ignorant
breed pay no heed to any relevant political context, they so foolishly blame
a whole religion for what is essentially a political conflict. Did they ever
pause to wonder if it might be possible that invading countries, killing,
raping, pillaging, destroying mosques and churches, and urinating on the
dead, have something to do with why many Muslims hate US foreign policy and
are willing to use violence in response?
Hicks too hated the three Muslim kids based on that same foolish, murderous
The Essential Terrorism Logic
But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been
''as American as apple pie and Napalm'' (a funny, sad line from the American
comedy, M.A.S.H). It is a readily available fodder for the ongoing war and
future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanization
needed to wage war.
This is why Islam and Muslims are equated with terrorism, and why terrorism
is used almost exclusively to describe violent acts committed or allegedly
committed by Muslims.
This logic strips every act of violence carried out by a Muslim or a
self-proclaimed one from its immediate context, however rational, and lumps
it into a larger taxonomy reserved exclusively for Islam and Muslims. It
refuses to use the same categorization for any other act of violence, thus
the irritating insistence on the correlations between politically-motivated
violence and Islam. The same champions of this invalid logic are those who
constantly push the line: ''All Muslims are not terrorists, but all
terrorists are Muslims.''
The assumption might be inane, but the intention is anything but. It absolves
the war criminals, who planned, executed and justified the war; the soldiers
who did the fighting, and those who ensured that there can be no legal
accountability for its numerous awful deeds – millions being killed, maimed
Instead, it puts the onus on ordinary Muslims who are set up to prove their
innocence to no avail, to absolve themselves from a crime they never
committed, in fact, to answer for someone else's crimes.
Hicks, the Parking Space Terrorist
But Hicks, who walked into the flat of three students in Chapel Hill, NC and
shot them, execution style, was not a Muslim. He comes from Christian
heritage. He is not black or brown, but white. His name is not Ahmed, but
That changes everything.
Neither the police nor the media would describe his crime as a hate crime,
let alone terrorism, although his terrorism is unique in a way. His type
resides on the top of the food chain in terms of race, gender and other
criteria. Yet, somehow he is politically frustrated. Go figure.
He is not a member of a radicalized generation born into oppression, foreign
invasion, poverty and other untold humiliation. If that was the case, one
can, at least to a degree fathom the hate, deconstruct the anger, or even
rationalize that violence is a natural outcome of a certain reality.
Hicks is of the Fox News demographic, gun touting unreasonably and
immeasurably angry, white American. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it
Police and Media Whitewashing
To add insult to injury, the Chapel Hill police reacted mere hours after the
terrorist act saying that an ''ongoing dispute over parking may have led to a
triple shooting''. The media embraced the statement with little questioning.
That was clearly Hicks' statement to the police, which was adopted as fact.
The term terrorism was completely absent from mainstream media discourse.
Obama finally reacted to the heinous crime, but only after being urged on by
a visibly moved Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. ''As political
leaders, we have responsibilities for the murders committed in the countries
where we are in charge. We have to show our stance. If you stay silent when
faced with an incident like this, and don't make a statement, the world will
stay silent towards you,'' Erdogan said.
Obama, belatedly issued a shot statement, vague and uncommitted.
The media's insistence on the parking dispute story has become the dominant
narrative. The tastelessness and insensitivity reached new heights when a US
Inside Edition TV show produced a report on how to ''safely'' find a parking
spot while avoiding dispute.
''Finding a parking space can be one of the things that pushes people over
the edge, but there is always a way to find a spot at the mall,'' said the
show host Deborah Norville. Behind her, on a large screen, the three murdered
Muslims. She didn't even bother to mention their names, or list their
contributions to their community. Their charity work alone was more than all
the good that Hicks and his gun-touting ''atheists'' types can ever do for
their community in a lifetime.
If the murderer was a Muslim or a black man, Norville's report would have had
a different title: ''How do you spot a terrorist?'' maybe, or ''What to do
about gang violence in my neighborhood?'' perhaps.
Holding US Media Accountable
But if the victims are Muslims, which could be millions of Iraqis, thousands
of Palestinians, or three Muslim students in North Carolina, the discourse
shifts away from generalizations, politics or any context that may in fact
help us understand the issue better.
So Hicks, we are told, killed the students ''execution style'' because of a
dispute over parking spaces.
The same way that Chris Kyle – ''The American Sniper'' – made 164 confirmed
''kills'', killing ''savages'' because that's what national heroes do.
And US wars and sanctions on Iraq killed, starved and wounded millions to
bring democracy to the Arabs.
This selectively insane logic will persist however, because there are
millions of unrepentant politicians, extremist media pundits and well-armed
men and women who refuse to see the recklessness of their ''logic''.
They will continue to feed violence – which unlike what Hicks is led to
believe – didn't start on 11 September 2001 – and spit out the most dangerous
of militant phenomena: al-Qaeda, IS and all the rest.
It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement, but
call the United States government and hate-filled media to account. These
outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.
- Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net – is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the
University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).