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The Disturbing Rise Of Islamophobia in America a Year After the Hate Crime Murder of Three Muslim Students

By Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani

Think Progress, February 11, 2016

North Carolina Muslim Victims: 23-year-old Dhiya Shady Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Ayesha Mian, left of Arlington, Va., and Salma Hasan Ali, of Washington, attend a Friday prayer service during a gathering of Muslims outside the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in the wake of the murder of three young North Carolina Muslims.

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina — a year that has seen a dramatic increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and actions from ordinary people and politicians alike.

On February 10, 2015, Dhiya (Deah) Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were gunned down in their home by their neighbor, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks. Police initially said the shooting was due to a parking dispute, although many Muslims, including two of the victims’ father, demanded the shooting be investigated as a hate crime.

Before the shooting, the students had taken multiple steps to avoid the wrath of their neighbor, including distributing copies of the parking lot map to family and friends, with unassigned spaces where they could park highlighted. On the day of the shooting, none of the three victims had parked in parking spaces assigned to Hicks.

“It’s time people started talking about how real Islamophobia is — that it’s not just a word tossed around for political purposes but that it has literally knocked on our doorstep and killed three of our American children,” Suzanne Barakat, Deah’s sister, told The New Yorker after the shooting.

Barakat’s words ring true a year later, as Islamophobia is on the rise in the United States — both in actions and rhetoric.

In the last three months alone, ThinkProgress has found at least sixty-five incidents in which Muslims throughout the country have been subject to shootings, personal assaults, harassment, and attacks on their houses of worship. In one particularly horrifying incident in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an armed robber shot a store clerk in the face after calling him a “terrorist” and demanding money. The robber put the barrel of his gun into the clerk’s mouth, but the clerk turned his head before he was shot, so that the bullet exited his cheek. The robber also suggested that the store clerk, who was of Indian descent, was part of ISIS, and he added that he used to kill people like him in Iraq.

The 2016 presidential campaign has also seen blatant Islamophobia, and the rhetoric of many candidates has likely fueled an environment where such acts can take place. Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of allowing Muslims into the United States. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) commended Trump’s plan, and has called for banning Muslim Syrian refugees. Jeb Bush similarly proposed a religious test for Syrian refugees, where those “who can prove [they] are a Christian” would be allowed to come to the United States. Ben Carson said that Islam is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and suggested Muslims should be disqualified to be president of the United States. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) denounced President Obama’s recent visit to a mosque in Baltimore and dismissed Islamophobia in the United States, saying “there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind.”

Despite the rise in Islamophobia, the families and friends of the victims of the Chapel Hill shooting are continuing the victims’ humanitarian efforts, including offering free dental services domestically and abroad, educational opportunities for people in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, and feeding the homeless, as well as other social services, according to the endowment set up in the victims’ honor. “As we mark this day, we want to honor the request of the families to not memorialize Our Three Winners, but to focus on using their legacy as a way to inspire others to give back to their local communities and to be real shining examples of Islam in the world,” read a Facebook post on a page set up by the victims’ families and friends. “Their memories will stay with not only their families but the countless lives they touched with their altruistic spirit.”

Hicks is still in prison awaiting trial, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of North Carolina is investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime.

Anti-Islam Incidents Since Paris Attacks, November 13, 2015

Data from

Note: We are updating our list and map as more incidents occur. Last updated: 2/10/2016


CAIR Urges Community to Join NC Events Honoring 'Our Three Winners'

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/9/16) �

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on members of the Muslim community and all others who seek a just and peaceful society to take part in events tomorrow in North Carolina marking the first anniversary of the deaths of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, who were killed one year ago in what many believe was a bias-motivated shooting.

CAIR, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also urged those who cannot take part in the North Carolina events to mark the anniversary through some form of community service in their local area. The three young Muslims, who came to be known as "Our Three Winners" because of their exemplary lives and their positive contributions to the local community, will be honored with memorial events at UNC-Chapel Hill (The event will be available live online and at North Carolina State University. There will also be a "Beacon of Light" award ceremony at the Light House in Raleigh, N.C., a community center designed to honor the slain students and to serve as an incubator for small businesses, provide after-school programs for students and to counter growing Islamophobia.

SEE: Our Three Winners A Year After Chapel Hill Shootings, Families Use House to Create Community, Counter Islamophobia

An interfaith food drive in honor of the students continues through Feb. 20 at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, 808 Atwater St., Raleigh. Proceeds will go to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C.

For More Information About Wednesday's Events, See: A Year After Slayings of Muslims, Community Seeks Dialogue, Harmony

"We urge people of all faiths and backgrounds to join in honoring 'Our Three Winners,' Deah, Yusor and Razan, by taking part in Wednesday's anniversary events," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "Those unable to join in the North Carolina memorial events should seek out an opportunity to perform some form of community service as a way to continue their legacy of giving."

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.     



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Video: USCMO Announces 'Washington Declaration' Forming Coordinating Body of Muslim Councils in the West

(WASHINGTON DC, 2/4/2016) � The US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of leading national and local American Muslim groups, today joined with leaders from Muslim organizations in the West to issue the "Washington Declaration" announcing the formation of a coordinating body to deal with issues of common concern. The declaration announcing the formation of the "Coordinating Body of Muslim Councils in the West" was issued at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and is the result of consultations at the recently-concluded "1st International Conference of Muslim Councils in the West" held this week in Arlington, Va. WATCH: USCMO News Conference Announcing Formation of Coordinating Body of Muslim Councils in the West

That conference was the first of its kind to bring Muslim leaders around the world together to exchange experiences and to discuss common issues of concern to our communities. A conference of this scale, uniting the voices of Muslims across the Western Hemisphere and world, is vital to our continued growth and development as a global community. The 200 attendees included representatives from Muslim Councils and their member organizations from North America, South America, the Caribbean, Australia, and the Europe. International representatives presented reports on Muslims in their respective countries. Conference discussions focused on:

* Identifying and developing strategic priorities for the Muslim communities in the West, * Exchanging ideas and developing strategies to address the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry in the West, * Developing ways with which to challenge and counteract the problem of violent extremism in all its forms, * Enhancing the integration and positive contributions of Muslim communities in the societies in which they live, * Developing strategies for the resettlement of the new waves of refugees and exchanging experiences and resources. The Conference was a successful and productive event with participants discussing issues and working together to propose solutions. The leaders were able to come up with a set of initiatives and proposals for further deliberation. The conference resolved that: The leaders participating in the conference have acknowledged the need and have agreed to form a Coordinating Body of Muslim Councils in the West and have formed a steering committee to implement this decision. "We will continue to engage in civic, social, political and educational areas to better integrate the Muslims in their own countries, as well as internationally," said Oussama Jammal, secretary general of USCMO. The historic conference was a vibrant open discussion with enthusiastic participation from a diverse set of leaders who represented the Muslim community in the West. A commitment to continue such meetings, which bring leaders together for a common purpose and a vision for our community, was agreed on by all.

Founding members of USCMO: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), The Mosque Cares (Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed)

CONTACT: USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal, 708-288-1914,

 Council on American-Islamic Relations 453 New Jersey Ave, S.E., Washington, D.C., 20003 Council on American-Islamic Relations Copyright © 1994. All rights reserved.


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