A Reflection: Chapel Hill and Charlie Hebdo

Earlier last month, the world watched as thousands of people rallied in hundreds of countries behind the unifying message that became the tagline of a movement: Je suis Charlie. The extremist actions of those who chose to incite violence in the name of Islam have inspired an anti-Muslim sentiment that has spread as rapidly as the work of arsonists in a Texas Islamic Center. Though the movement encouraged free speech its aftershocks led to masses of people protesting not under the banner of universal human rights, but instead with a message directed at Muslims: one of hostility and anger. The Muslim world reacted with protests of its own, describing the vile messages of the magazine. Denouncing the actions but explaining the reasoning was for the most part the Muslim reaction, and the anti- Muslim sentiment simmered down as news of the Ukrainian Russian War and Obama’s relationship with Cuba dominated national headlines. But all too soon, the xenophobic attitude that has infected the American social fabric was allowed to rear its head.

Noting the irony, I learned of the Chapel Hill attacks from Instagram. Cognizance of  current events is essentially mandated by my class; we are a well informed group eager to debate facts and evidence on any subject. My class’s ignorance on the shooting, then, came as an unexpected surprise, until I learned of the attention (or lack thereof) being given to it by major news outlets. Purusing through CNN, the BBC, and Al-Jazeera, we quickly realized our efforts were in vain; no one was covering the tragic story of the three inspiring students killed by a self-proclaimed sectarian. And when the story gained traction it was one of a man driven insane by mental instability: not the story of a man seeking to exhaust his supply of hate on nearby reverent adherents of Islam.

Naturally, this coverage infuriated the Muslim community within America who all made the same argument: major news outlets tend to sensationalize and over-report stories that would inspire anti-Muslim sentiment (i.e. ISIS, Charlie Hebdo, etc.) but fail to report even the most clear desecration of civil liberty and freedom. While sympathizing with this point as a Muslim, I respectfully advocate for a more present Muslim presence in media to highlight both the ability to remain faithful to the religion and our shared American identity. We all, as human beings, have the responsibility to assure that human life is never exploited uselessly and to inspire messages of brotherhood, unity, and our shared ideologies of a better future rather than partake in furtive arguments about meaningless differences. It is only under the banner of human improvement and universal peace that we can progress as a species, and we as individuals must strive towards this goal to attain success.

– Written by Kinza Haq (redefy school representatives team member)