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Some Thoughtful Words — And Many Unanswered Questions — After Chapel Hill

Kheira Benkreira and Hasnia Bekkadja attend a vigil for the slain Chapel Hill victims in Washington, D.C., last week.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Kheira Benkreira and Hasnia Bekkadja attend a vigil for the slain Chapel Hill victims in Washington, D.C., last week.

Since the killing of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., last week, a grand jury has indicted the victims' neighbor Craig Hicks for the murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. The FBI is also investigating the potential of a hate crime and President Obama said in a statement that "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."

As this story inches forward, we wanted to surface some thoughtful reporting and writing on this tragedy, and the many questions left in its wake.

At the Aerogram, Yusuf Ziddy writes about the stickiness of labels and the consequences they can leave behind:

"We are told not to react too swiftly; not to pass judgment too hastily; not to apply labels too quickly. It is crystal clear that the American public uses certain words and labels, only in certain contexts. As a bystander, I am trying to wrap my head around these distinctions. It is clear to me now that 'terrorism' is defined, in this nation, as an act of violence that can only be conflicted by Muslims. It is also clear to me that a 'hate crime' is defined as an act of violence only conflicted on certain select minorities, which have tended not to include black or brown people."

And in The New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch questioned whether we should be relieved if it really was all about a "parking dispute":

"Are we then supposed to ignore the fact that [Hicks] was an anti-religious fanatic, who was said to have taunted the women he later killed for dressing according to their traditions and beliefs? We are told that he was in favor of gay marriage, as if that negated his militant intolerance of others. He spent most of his time on Facebook heaping contempt on Christians, who are more numerous by far in Hicks's neck of the woods than Muslims. And yet with law-enforcement sounding like Hicks-family spin doctors, we are being urged to consider this murderer as a figure of all-embracing American assimilation—a man who did not care who they were but hated them as he would hate anyone and everyone, equally and without fear or favor, for the way they parked."

BuzzFeed's Mike Hayes spoke to Deah Barakat's brother and helped paint a complex portrait of how the families are grieving:

"Despite a day of mourning that was compounded by gazing upon the gruesome wounds suffered by his brother — all three victims were allegedly shot execution-style in the head by neighbor Craig Hicks, who later turned himself in to police — Farris offered what some might consider to be a surprising take on the last couple days.

" 'There's nothing bad about this,' he said. 'Besides the fact that we're going to miss him. I wanted to be the uncle to his kids. I wanted to make sure to check his tires on his new car when he becomes a dentist.

" 'Besides that, everything has been great.'

"Farris cited his Muslim faith for giving him and his family the ability to cope with the tragedy.

" 'My strength comes from my faith,' he said. 'My faith that Deah and wife and Razan are in a great place right now.' "

One of the victims' friends, Amira Ata, explained to Fusion's Latoya Peterson what it's like to have one's best friend killed:

"Honestly, I don't want to say, 'Why her?' because I don't want this to happen to anyone. What we've been feeling over the last 12 hours I don't want anyone to ever feel.

"I have so many questions for Hicks."

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