Three Muslim students were shot to death at a condominium near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Authorities were investigating whether the victims’ Muslim religion played a role in shooting. Some who commented on the crime said the shooting was motivated by a dispute over parking. Others, including national Muslim activist groups, saw a hate crime. Photos of the victims went viral worldwide on social media with the hashtag #muslimlivesmatter.
The three people who died are UNC dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife of two months, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Police arrested Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, and charged him with three counts of first-degree murder.
The father of the two Muslim women killed said that he believed the three deaths were hate crimes. The suspected gunman’s wife insisted that the alleged acts stemmed from long-standing issues over parking. A few of the victims had complained to their families about Hicks in the past. He was described as an angry and aggressive neighbor who was known for his “rants” about parking spots and noise, reported the Los Angeles Times (2.11.15). He killed the three people “execution” style with a shot to the head.
If the shootings do turn out to be motivated by anti-Islamic bias, it would be one of many such anti-religious incidents that occur each year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports program. In 2014, there were 1223 victims of hate crimes linked to religion. Of this number, 13.7 percent were victims of anti-Muslim bias.
According to The Washington Post (2.11.15), before the 9/11 attacks, the typical number of anti-Muslim hate crimes were between 20 and 30 per year. In 2001 that number hit nearly 500. In more recent years, annual hate crimes against Muslims have stayed in the 100-150 range.
Many hate crimes are believed to go unreported, given that participation in the program is voluntary, and some state and local police departments do a better job of tracking data than others.
It should be noted that Jewish people were targeted for their faith more often than members of any other religious group, including Muslims. According to the FBI hate crime statistics, anti-Jewish bias accounted for 60.3 percent of anti-religious hate crimes. Muslims are the second-most frequently targeted. Victims of anti-Catholic bias were third.
Hate crime victims may bring civil lawsuits against the perpetrators, requesting monetary and other damages. An experience lawyer can help the victim in filing a civil action in court.
The Washington Post article cited is “Anti-Muslim hate crimes are still five times more common today than before 9/11.”
The LA Times story cited is “North Carolina triple slaying arouses fear of hate crimes against Muslims.”