(Before It's News)
With an FBI investigation underway to determine whether the recent fatal shootings of three Arab-Americans in the US last week was a hate crime following the indictment of their killer earlier this week, the tragedy – and embarrassment that it was not covered adequately enough – may just help quell Islamophobic incidents on the giant continent.
For once, the Muslims who have made it to the headlines aren’t suspects, but victims, not disheveled and afflicted with misfortune, but every bit a picture of grace and normalcy that evokes nothing but sadness, and sadly, surprise among many.
What helped their cause further was the fact that mainstream media sources were not reporting on the incident in full force, while those that did still questioned the motives of the killer. Was it parking rage or a hate crime, they asked, prompting outrage and the social media campaign hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter.
Several news anchors and writers have since come forward to denounce both the scarcity and disengaged tone of reporters covering the incident.
Commentators, such as Chris Hayes and others, reminded viewers that hatred fueled by media magnification is on the rise and that unless people were reminded that there do exist “normal” Muslims, crimes like this would continue to take place in the name of liberty.
Of course, such a tragedy should have been in the limelight from the start since, lets face it, if they were Caucasian killed by a Muslim, things would be wholly different.
Nevertheless, the incident was a stark and effective reminder that Muslims can be patriots and shooters – of hoops and not bullets.
Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the council welcomed the FBI’s involvement in the case.
“This case is quickly becoming a touchstone for the American Muslim community’s sense of security and inclusion,” Awad said.
What triggered the huge social media campaign was also the power of pictorial storytelling. Images of the trio and vintage portraits of the newly wed couple gazing into each other’s eyes continue to go viral on social media sites, fueled by even more horror at the fact that the victims never lived to see their own wedding photos.
For once, a Muslim fairytale was romanticized, while other snapshots of the victims suggested a life of fulfillment and fun, of heroism and happiness and not of destitution and destruction.
Indeed, not only was 23-year-old Deah Barakat your average guy-next-door, he was the perfect student of life by any measure. A handsome basketball player, dentistry student and avid philanthropist who had raised almost half a million dollars for Syrian refugees at the time of his demise, he had also married a human biology graduate who wore a headscarf but still managed to blend in.
Meanwhile, the heart-wrenching images of a father who had made it possible for his children to live the American dream also inundated foreign press, a painful reminder for many hardworking first generation immigrants that hate can put a bullet in their hopes. Another image shows Deah’s bereaved father kissing his veiled mother’s forehead as they mourn the death of their son.
Unfortunately for Mustafa Mattan, the black Muslim who had been brutally killed in Canada just the day before, news of his death did not make so many headlines because his was a story less appealing and, as one Al Jazeera columnist put it, reflects “the colour of Muslim mourning”.
Nevertheless, the hashtag and anger at the media’s slow reaction to a very telling crime is boding well for Muslims across the Atlantic.
Deah’s veiled sister, Suzanne, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “let all of us, as Americans, collectively not let their deaths go in vein”.
Yet only through media validation and the humanization of Muslims can a collective voice of conscience be heard, much in the same way that horror over the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by ISIL earlier this month prompted unanimous backing to avenge his killers in any way possible.
Thankfully for Suzanne, images of her brother and his wife and sister-in-law living the dream may have had a stronger impact on the American public than the thousands of images of helpless Muslims in war-torn areas.
In an age where the media has been monopolized with more provocative pictures of Muslim terrorists than ever before, prompting a wave of hate crimes across the Western world, it is such incidents that may prove strong enough to fight anti-Muslim attacks.
Indeed, this is why Barakats and Abu Salhas may have both lived – and died – for a good cause.