Chapel Hill Murders Controversy

Murders occur daily although a small fraction appeals to the media to report on. A smaller amount attracts thousands of people’s attention but often it’s not for the right reasons. Eventually, this kind of reaction can lead to false accusations and hatred.

On Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill near the University of North Carolina, Craig Stephen Hicks was in a parking lot dispute with Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha. This resulted in Hicks shooting and killing all three of them with a handgun. All three victims were in their early twenties. Their lives ended too soon and their friends and family are left devastated be the loss.

After the news of the murders became widely known, thousands of people became angry when specific details were mentioned. On, they bluntly reported all victims were Muslims and displayed a mugshot of Hicks after he was arrested for the murders, showing he is obviously not a Muslim himself. The father of the two women expressed his view of the ordeal as a “hate crime”. Plus, when NBC discovered Hicks proudly labels himself as a “gun-toting” atheist on Facebook, the victim’s father’s perspective didn’t seem far fetched. At the same time, one must consider if the fact that Hicks is an atheist automatically suggests this is his motive to kill them.

On, Michael A. Cohen exposed aspects of Hicks’ background which could be plausible reasons for his motives: he has an obsession with ammunition, a history of aggressive behavior (especially parking circumstances in his neighborhood being a trigger to his anger) and a high possibility he is mentally ill. Contrastingly, the general public think otherwise. Cohen continues to explain the misconception that this story wouldn’t have gained an extreme amount of attention unless the media hadn’t focused on the fact that all three victims were Muslims and Hicks is an atheist, insinuating religious hatred is the main reason this murder occurred. Cohen concludes the root of the problem, “Guns are the one constant, and yet, because of their very omnipresence, they’re also the one element so often looked past . . . we as a nation have basically given up trying to stop the daily drumbeat of gun violence, we search for other explanations”.

Furthermore, gun violence is not the only problem we need to improve upon. A prevalent stigma is the belief that atheists are horrible people who are constantly seeking to condone violence and murder those who are religious. Despite this negative interpretation put upon them, atheists as a whole are people who don’t believe in the existence of God and deities. A self-described “New Atheist” (an atheist who promotes religious tolerance and questions religion), Sam Harris is an opinionated debater and has published books upon similar topics such as religion, morality and philosophy. He also hosts a podcast on his official website,, expressing his views on the matter, “You can sense that people have just been waiting for a crime like this that could conceivably be pinned on atheism . . . using this very real tragedy in Chapel Hill to try to stoke a kind of mob mentality around an imagined atheist campaign of bigotry against Muslims. It’s… incredibly cynical and tendentious and opportunistic…”. Continuously the media, the general public, and religious people believe atheists are serial killers and use horrific crime scenes such as the Chapel Hill murders to exemplify an atheist crime in a biased perspective.

Before you judge a controversial issue as this murder case, be sure to know all sides of the story – gain incite to other’s perspectives and become knowledgeable of the facts. The death of three people is tragic and there’s no need to add on to the misery unless necessary.