#MuslimLivesMatter, but for how long?
The question is, how long will #MuslimLivesMatter? Will it be until the next Charlie Hebdo, extremist-style attack comes along?
When three young Muslims were shot dead in their home in North Carolina this week, it allowed the Middle East’s online community to talk to its Western counterpart about the issue.
The killing of the young students at the hands of their neighbour was shocking to say the least. Deah, 23 and his 21 year-old wife of two months, Yusor, and her 19-year-old sister, Razan lost their lives in what I would like to term as a hate crime, though it is yet to be formally recognized as such.
The reaction of the online community to the killings can be analyzed in stages.
Stage one: 'It wasn’t racially motivated'
Denial – the classic first stage in a tragedy. Reports popped up left, right and center that the murder was due to a parking dispute. The reports were brought on by a police statement.
What is more important to note, is that a parking dispute – or any similar dispute – and a hate crime can be mutually linked. Even after an interview with Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha’s father, where he notes that Yusor had said on two separate occasions that their neighbour was harassing them because of their faith, CNN had the audacity to question “When is a crime a ‘hate crime?’”
One thing that is to be noted with this reaction is that although the online community trended #MuslimLivesMatter, in my opinion Muslim lives are also disrespected. Would it have been acceptable to even suggest that the Charlie Hebdo attack (before it was linked to a wider terrorist organization) could have been over something trivial? Most definitely not.
The “Us-vs.-Them” discussion is one that I feel is worth mentioning. It’s not one that I support though, because leading an argument with that mentality puts “them” in a defensive mode.
Stage two: Avoiding using the ‘T’ word
Social media is weary of using “terrorism” to avoid “jumping to conclusions.” Once it was made clear that the victims were Muslim, the reports came in censored.
The sensitivity of using the T-word is paramount, and a true indication that it has been used repeatedly to exploit public rhetoric. In fact, the absence of the T-word in this situation is something I support – perhaps this will teach (social) media to no longer jump to conclusions, regardless of who the victims are, or what faith they follow. After all, what is terrorism, and who defines it? Is there a universal definition of terrorism, and does it apply if it is against Muslims?
Stage three: Solidarity
The solidarity shown with the victims and their families is a testament that human nature is inherently beautiful. The hashtag, #MuslimLivesMatter, developed similar to the way that #BlackLivesMatter came about in July, after George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s shooter, was acquitted.
Deah’s campaign to raise funds for a medical trip to aid Syrian refugees in Turkey went raised over $250,000 since his death. Social media has been flooded with support and candle-lit vigils for the young students.
The question is, how long will #MuslimLivesMatter? Will it be until the next Charlie Hebdo, extremist-style attack comes along, or has the world finally realized that the acts of a few cannot represent 1.6 billion followers in the world?
Also, #MuslimLivesMatter, but to whom – other Muslims, or has the general public genuinely woken up? The murder of these three brilliant individuals should not pass in a moment; rather it should start a movement of true solidarity.
I can’t imagine what it is like for the parents of Deah, Yosur and Razan. But their death has helped wake the world up, even for a few moments, and will hopefully spark a peaceful movement. It’s not just Muslim lives that matter, or black lives that matter – every life matters.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir
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