Update: The chief source for this article was a report on March 2 by WRAL in North Carolina. Around the same time the below article was published on March 3, The New York Times reported that the motive(s) for the Chapel Hill murders "went beyond a parking dispute," though it stated the alleged shooter "was undeniably obsessed with parking." The article below, which has not been edited since publication, clearly delineates the limits of the author's knowledge of the killer's motive(s). The author stands by this article. - ML
Almost immediately after news broke last month that 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks allegedly shot and killed three Muslim students from the University of North Carolina, critics of Islam found themselves being implicated. That's because Hicks' Facebook page was peppered with atheistic posts and criticisms of religion, including Islam. Even though police said at the time the murders appeared motivated by a parking dispute, this was dismissed out of hand by Islam's defenders, who jumped to the tenuous and absurd conclusion that New Atheist "Islamophobes" were responsible because they supposedly incite anti-Muslim hatred.
But their explanation for the crime appears to be falling apart (as we're about to see in a moment).
I noted at the time, that even if the shooting was the result of some anti-Muslim animus harbored by Hicks, this wouldn't implicate atheism because atheism has no tenets; it's simply the non-belief in god. Nor would it implicate atheist critics of Islam such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris since they've never advocated violence against Muslims simply for being Muslims. Unfortunately this didn't prevent some from trying.
Glenn Greenwald, who happens to be clueless on perils of radical Islam, tweeted what was probably the first article he saw implicating atheism in the shooting. Reza Aslan tweeted a stew of nonsense by Elizabeth Stoker Bruening in The New Republic, which averred, "Perhaps this will be a moment of reflection for the New Atheist movement and its adherents."
Meanwhile, Nathan Lean took aim at New Atheists with blazing guns loaded only with pure speculation. He asserted, on no real evidence whatsoever, "Craig Stephen Hicks did not kill Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha over a parking spot. Not in the context of a poisonous climate of anti-Muslim prejudice."
And of course, no gaggle of anti-New Atheist hacks would be complete without the lovable and bumbling plagiarist, C.J. Werleman, who, if he reads this, will be absolutely thrilled to be included in this cohort. On the only website left that will give him a platform, Werleman wrote,
"If it turns out, as it appears to indicate, that Hicks was inspired to kill by his anti-religious animus, then it’s time for atheists to denounce the extremists in their ranks. The extremists are the anti-theists (New Atheists) masquerading as atheists."
Unfortunately for these shameless hacks, it now appears that parking was the motive behind the shooting. As WRAL reported on Monday, Hicks was obsessed with the parking situation at the condo complex where he and his three victims lived:
"According to new search warrants in the case, Hicks kept photos and detailed notes on parking activity at the Finley Forest complex. Other neighbors have described him as being angry and combative over parking because residents are allotted one reserved spot."
This revelation, and the fact that Hicks supported the so-called Ground Zero mosque and said he would be "ok" with having a Muslim president, seem to lend credence to the parking dispute as a motive, while also putting a damper on the claim he hated Muslims. I say seems to and not does because it remains to be seen -- perhaps at his trial -- whether Hicks was in fact bigoted against Muslims. It is after all important to circumscribe the limitations of our knowledge at this juncture, but good luck telling that to the libelous and opportunistic New Atheist-bashers who say critics of Islam have blood on their hands.
The sad thing is that even if it's discovered beyond all doubt that Hicks killed the three students over a parking spot, the aforementioned traducers will continue living with their delusion. And certainly, no apology will be forthcoming for their downright defamatory non sequiturs.