Three days after 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks shot and killed three University of North Carolina students, President Obama has finally weighed in on this act of terror. The White House released the following statement Friday afternoon, notable for what it does not say (via email from The White House):
Yesterday, the FBI opened an inquiry into the brutal and outrageous murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In addition to the ongoing investigation by local authorities, the FBI is taking steps to determine whether federal laws were violated. No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship. Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones. As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family. Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives – and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours.
“Growing up in America has been such a blessing,” Yusor said recently. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions – but here, we’re all one.”
As per usual, President Selfie-Stick is refusing to call this act of terror an act of terror, and failing to identify the real enemy as radical atheism. What's different this time is that no one is demanding that he do so. When the perpetrators of violent acts are Muslims, even when the President actually does use the term "radical Islam," and freely insists that the acts are committed in the name of Islam, his critics demand that he use their secret password, and only their secret password, to describe the problem. Thus far, those same critics have failed to make a similar demand where Hicks is concerned.
So far, these killings haven't been designated hate crimes, but the contours are clear enough: although the trigger for the incident appears to be a parking dispute, Hicks was known to post anti-religious messages on Facebook, and the killings were carried out execution-style. One thing is for sure: if this were a Muslim shooter gunning down three white atheists, no one would be waiting for an investigation to call it an act of Jihadi terror.
In fact, given the vile depth of anti-Islamic sentiment on the right, it's a wonder they're not demanding that Obama blame this attack on Islam, since they were surely asking for it.
One thing that has gotten lost in the debate over naming Islam (radical or otherwise) as the cause of terrorism is that there are two distinct strains of thought on the subject. There are self-styled pragmatists who insist on some "real talk" because religious beliefs ought to be open to intellectual scrutiny, who sometimes stray off into territory that is uncomfortably vociferous, and there are those who begin with the proposition that Muslims are to be mistrusted and feared and even hated, and work their arguments back from there. We should take care to notice the difference.