CAIRO – A leading Arab-American advocacy group has linked the lack of media coverage of the brutal killing of the young Muslims in North Carolina to the rise of Islamophobia inspired by the new Hollywood film “American Sniper”.
“It may not be directly linked to the film, but the overall way that Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment are moving in this country is portrayed in the words of those who watched American Sniper,” Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), told The Independent.
“The film gave us a look into how these individuals were feeling and for the first time we were getting raw, real messages – and they were frightening.”
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23 his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21 and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were found shot dead at a condominium complex off campus.
The gunman, identified as 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, reportedly turned himself into police.
The ADC legal director has blamed the film industry, government and right-wing political commentators for the increase of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the US.
Ayoub also argued that coverage of the execution-style murder could have been different in case the victims were non-Muslims.
“Absolutely 100 per cent this would have been covered differently if the roles were reversed.
“This country needs to realize that acts of terrorism are not confined to a single religion or ethnicity.
“This [Islamophobia] is something that needs to stop and we would like the media to pay more attention and cover this more to show the impact of hate crime and hate.”
In January, the ADC has called on the American Sniper film crew to denounce its hateful language that promotes discrimination and hostility, following receiving dozens of violent threats since the release of the film.
The biographical war drama film is based on the story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper who killed 160 in Iraq during US invasion.
The film was criticized for glorifying war on Iraq as well sanitizing a sniper “who called Muslims savages in his memoir”.
Keeping silent over Chapel Hill shooting, the US president has been criticized for not offering condolences to the American Muslim families.
“If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don’t make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you,” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, condemning those responsible for the crime, the Guardian reported.
Meanwhile, the legal director of the ADC described the government’s approach to invite Muslims to its counter terrorism as an example of where it “needs to change”.
“There are key individuals who could tone down the Islamophobic rhetoric,” Ayoub said.
“You have people on the extreme right that just push that Islam is an evil religion and Muslims and Arabs are these evil people.
“They could take action and tone that down a little bit – you are entitled to your opinion but don’t attack the community and don’t paint us with a broad brush.”
Twitter users started to employ the hashtag “#MuslimLivesMatter,” to comment on how the mainstream media ignored the news of the murder which did not make national headlines.
“I share strong feelings of outrage and shock with my fellow citizens and University students – as well as concerned people everywhere,” Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said in the aftermath of the shooting.
“Chapel Hill is a place for everyone, a place where Muslim lives matter.”
On Wednesday, more than two thousand students, faculty and members of the community gathered in North Carolina University for a vigil to remember and pay tribute to the three young Muslim-Americans.
Since the 9/11 attacks, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have complained of discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A Gallup poll also found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.