1. Update

Tragedy at Chapel Hill

By Wardah Khalid, February 11, 2015

The shocking murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill yesterday has sparked heated conversations across the country about media biases, bigotry, and Islamophobia.

Details are still emerging about the motive of the incident (some say it was a parking issue, while the victims’ father claims it was a hate crime), but one thing is clear: the rhetoric in this country surrounding minority communities is becoming increasingly dangerous.

As someone who has written extensively on what it is like being Muslim in America and encountered my fair share of Islamophobic comments, the shooter’s public hatred toward people of all faiths has me extremely concerned. He made statements against all faiths and that he had “not only a right, but a duty, to insult it.”

More than a decade after 9/11, prejudiced treatment remains a reality for many Muslim Americans.

This sort of hate speech not only undermines the constitutional right of everyone in the United States to practice their faith as they see fit, but it also reinforces the concept of seeing those different from oneself as the “other” and a motivation for fear, bigotry, and even violent behavior toward them.

During my first week as a Scoville Fellow at FCNL, I have learned that the organization has worked extensively on addressing such irrational fears through its work on issues such as Middle East diplomacy, Guantanamo, drones, and immigration. FCNL is a member of the Shoulder to Shoulder interfaith initiative, took a stand against anti-Muslim subway ads, and issued a statement following the 9/11 attacks highlighting that “many in this country of the Islamic faith or of Middle Eastern descent are worried that they may now become the unwarranted focus of suspicion in their communities or, worse, the subjects of unjust persecution.” Unfortunately, more than a decade later, such prejudiced treatment remains a reality for many Muslim Americans. I am well aware that I may encounter Islamophobic attitudes in the Middle East policy work that I do in Washington, D.C.

As we mourn the Chapel Hill tragedy, let us remind ourselves that faith can be used as an effective tool to counter societal injustices and renew our commitment to work together for a safer and more inclusive society for people in the United States of all backgrounds.

Wardah Khalid

  • Scoville Fellow, Middle East Policy

Wardah was a Scoville Fellow for Middle East Policy working with the FCNL Education Fund in 2015.