Identity Crisis

Fatima Elshiekh

About three Torch issues ago, my article Shoot Me, I’m Black was published. There, I spoke out about the situations that black people are put in, how they are treated, and the shootings that occur with absolutely no support for the victim’s side and family. I ended by stated the point that black lives don’t matter here in America, and that they never have. Being black here in America, I feel that that is true. But, on top of that, I am also Muslim. So I wonder, do their lives matter here?

On Feb. 10, three Muslim American college students were shot and killed in their apartment in Chapel Hill, N.C. Their names were Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. But no one cared, because no, their lives don’t matter here – they didn’t even matter enough for the media to cover the tragedy without trying to brush it off as a parking dispute.

These killings not only sadden me, but terrify me to the point where I am questioning my identity, my place as a Black Muslim here in America. Though this isn’t the first time I have felt unsafe, and not cared for, in my own country, it should certainly be the last. Every day I leave my house wearing the hijab, an open symbol of Islam, but recently I can’t help but feel that people would hate me for my religion.

But I know that Islam teaches me peace, modesty, mercy, love, compassion and service – and this is the religion that every Muslim in the United States strives to embody.

I want you to know that millions of Muslims in America are grieving at the deaths of Deah, Yusor and Razan. I want you not to only understand the true, peaceful meaning of Islam, but to defend and protect Muslims. I want you to grieve with us at the loss of three beautiful, bright Americans who had a future of serving our country and world. I want you to start questioning the media’s false coverage. The accused killer is a hateful, ignorant bigot who only saw the headscarf and no meaning beneath it. This terrorist is blinded by the media’s false representation of Islam, such as “American Sniper”, a film that broke box-office records but that glorifies the killing of Muslims.

I see the memory of these three victims slowly sliding away, and that terrifies me. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would have been had the situation been reversed – had the gunman been a Muslim and the victims not. I believe their pictures would have been spread all over every news channel around the globe. People would be talking about the victims, wishing them peace as they rest. The words “parking lot dispute” would not have been brought up, only that the suspect was Muslim.

Because this situation doesn’t fit neatly into the media’s preferred stereotypes, the slayings are being erased. It is important that we mourn our fellow students because the same attitude that is making it so easy to forget them is what caused their killings in the first place – the lack of value placed on Muslim lives.

Black lives matter. Muslim lives matter. All lives matter.