When my mother heard that three Muslim doctors had been shot in North Carolina, she immediately called me. She was upset and scared for my cousin who is studying in Chicago. Is he safe? Will he be targeted? Why doesn’t he come home? I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to comfort her, to reassure her that nothing like that could ever happen, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have similar fears for friends and family living overseas. Any time there is a news report about a shooting or a bomb or something I get a familiar feeling of dread. This time, though, there was another feeling that was causing tears to well up in my eyes while talking to my mother. It was due to the last of my mother’s questions: “Why doesnt’ he come home?”
There is no doubt that Islamaphobia is a real problem in the West. Dozens of mosques have been attacked in France, and a new report says that anti-Muslim hate crimes in America are five times more common today than they were before 9/11. So to pretend that a gunman killed these three innocent people ‘execution style’ over something as simple as a ‘parking dispute’ is simply insulting.
But statistics should be put into context. For example, while anti-Muslim hate crimes are up in the US since 9/11, the same report says they “have consistently hovered in the 100-150 range.” Obviously even one hate crime is too many, but for a nation of 300 millions with over 7 million Muslims, the statistics do not support fears that Muslims in America are in imminent danger. Ironically, the same report actually shows that around six times as many Jews are victims of hate crimes in America than Muslims.
Compare this to Pakistan where over 60 Muslims were killed and 50 more injured in a single day just a couple of weeks ago. Where over 900 Muslims have been killed in the name of ‘honour’ since two years. Where thousands of Muslims have been killed for being the wrong kind of Muslim. And where some people’s lives are so worthless that they can be killed with impunity for even calling themselves as ‘Muslims’.
Now let’s look at the difference in public reactions to killing of Muslims. Here is the scene after a Muslim was shot dead in Pakistan for his beliefs:
In Pakistan, thousands turned out in the streets to shower the gunman with roses and kisses. In Chapel Hill, thousands turned out in the streets to mourn the victims.
One of the victims sister Suzanne Barakat told the media:
“If you were within our community, you would see just the outpouring of love and support we are receiving from everyone around us, and it’s been immensely touching.”
Compare this to another vigil held a few weeks ago, this time in Lahore. At this vigil for a Muslim man shot down in cold blood, only a few dozen people showed up to mourn the victim. And they were attacked. By Muslims.
The senseless murders of three innocent people in the prime of their lives has sent shockwaves through the world. The compassionless handling of the tragic event by media who reported that the three Muslim victims were killed over a ‘parking dispute’ has sent waves of disgust and started a campaign around the fact that #MuslimLivesMatter.
I struggle to find an answer to ease my mother’s fears. I tell her through my tears that we should do dua for the victims, and that we must have faith in Allah who is our protector. I tell her I have prayed and I have looked at statistics and I have faith that my cousin will be safe while he is a Muslim in America. What I cannot tell her, is that I have the same faith for when he comes home.