About the #ChapelHillShooting and the #CopenhagenShooting?

While my son and husband were at football this morning, I was happily cleaning the house and suddenly my phone blew up with notifications. ‘One person shot dead at free speech gathering in Copenhagen,’ ‘Suspected terror attack in Copenhagen’, ‘One dead at debate where Mohammed cartoonist is present’.  Naturally I was horrified.  But not necessarily for the reasons you think.

My son is Danish.  He’s also an American and Brit.  His father is (very) Scandinavian, having grown up in rural Denmark and I’m a British-Asian, who grew up in South Asia.  And, believe it or not, we’re a proud Muslim family.  Granted we’re not practicing Muslims, but we’re cultural Muslims.  I’m proud of my son’s mixed heritage and I believe it’s something to be celebrated.

But as I think back on this last week, I am filled with such sadness.  First, the three Muslim students who were mercilessly killed in North Carolina.  What an absolute tragedy for their families and their communities.  They had so much to offer the world and all that was taken from them in a truly horrific manner.  And now these shootings in Copenhagen.  What do I tell my son about the violence that’s happening in the places that he’s from?

Yusor and Deah at their wedding on December 27th, 2014.

Well, this: the media, world leaders, and people in our community only care about half of you and that is the white, Scandinavian half.  The Muslim/Arab-looking half of you will be shunned and shamed (for Islamist attacks that have nothing to do with us) until people like me, you, your father, and others speak up and speak out.  It took mere minutes for news outlets and social media to be all over the Copenhagen shooting and I would argue, rightly so.  A life taken too soon in a violent manner is newsworthy.  But days after Deah Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha (21), and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) were shot, we still know very little about what happened.  How are we, as a world, ok with that? And how can you turn around and say that there isn’t a double standard in the way Muslim lives and deaths are reported versus non-Muslim (white) ones when you look at how the Chapel Hill shooting story unfolded vs the Copenhagen shootings? When I show my son the news coverage on both events how else will he interpret this?

Deah Barakat ( age 23), Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha (age 21), and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (age 19)

The honest truth is that I am terrified for my children.  I am angry beyond belief that the world has given such little time and attention to the murders of these students.  But more than anything I am scared for my children because they are Muslim and they look Muslim and the murders of their own people are being ignored, erased, or otherwise made invisible by the world and almost everyone is ok with that.  That is an absolutely terrifying thought to me because if my kids ever need it, will they be helped by their peers or ignored like Deah, Yusor, and Razan because they’re Muslim or Arab looking?  Or because they parked in the wrong place?  As a Muslim, a parent, and a human I am unnerved by how easily everyone has accepted the ‘parking space dispute’ theory as a motive for murder because on February 10th, 2015 Deah, Yusor, and Razan were the victims, but ten years ago that could have been my sister and I, and in 20 years that could my children and my nieces and nephews.  Yet the theory news outlets are espousing for the attack in Copenhagen is ‘terror’ and everyone has accepted that blindly.  Well according to the FBI, a terror attack is the unlawful use of force with the aim of intimidating a government or civilian population and let me tell you, the relative radio silence surrounding the murders of the three students has me and millions of other Muslims terrified so is one attack really more terror-related than the other?

It has already been said but it bears repeating, for many Muslims our issue is not that the murders were over a parking dispute.  If that is genuinely what these murders were about then that’s what they were about.  But in asking us to accept that, think about what you would do if you were told a Muslim barged into someone’s home and shot 3 young adults over a parking spot.  Would you simply accept that and move on or would you demand more answers from the people investigating and your news sources?  If you answer that question truthfully, it may shed some light on why so many Muslims are both outraged and terrified by the lack of media coverage on these murders.  With all the anti-Islamic sentiment in the world and the stigma attached to identifying as Muslim (especially if you wear a hijab), it is hard for many of us to simply accept this parking spot theory without more information.  If a Muslim had been the attacker, news coverage on these murders would still be rampant but less than five days on from the attack, one has to dig deep to find information on it.

I am raising a son who will naturally be curious about both the Chapel Hill shooting and the Copenhagen shootings because he is both Muslim and Danish.  But he will be caught between these worlds because I am raising him to proud of his Muslim identity, as well as his Danish, British, and American roots.  The world, though, cannot seem to wrap its head around a Muslim victim.  We must be the perpetrators of violence and terrorism and not at the receiving end of it.  The media and the world can both understand and accept a Muslim villain, but they are unwilling to accept a Muslim victim, unless that victim is stranded on a mountain or in a desert in some far-off land waiting for Western assistance.  That is the extent of our identity to Western media and this Chapel Hill attack and the lack of journalistic coverage on it has shown what a narrow and racist view of Muslims the world has.  I am saddened that my children and nieces and nephews will grow up in a world where they are either viewed as villains or not noticed at all.  For all my attempts to raise socially active, well educated, and enterprising children, the world will simply not see them because they do not fit into the popular understanding (supported, extended, and encouraged by mainstream media) of what a Muslim should be.  That is what the #ChapelHillShooting has taught me and what it will teach my son.

A life taken too soon is always something to be mourned and investigated fully.  A Muslim life (and death), it seems though, is either invisible, ignorable, or both.  But my children will not be ignored.  They will be Muslim.  And they will be Danish and British and American.  And they will have empathy for both the Chapel Hill and the Copenhagen victims because every act of violence and terror in the world is deplorable.  I will not let them compromise who they are because the world refuses to embrace and accept every part of their cultural heritage.  I will say it now and I will keep saying it until somebody actually listens: as a family we are Danish, American, and British, AND we are Muslim and the lives and deaths of our people matter.  Extremism will not break our tolerance.

Mourners at the funeral for the Chapel Hill victims.

#ChapelHillShootings #OurThreeWinners #CopenhagenShooting

13 thoughts on “About the #ChapelHillShooting and the #CopenhagenShooting?

  1. Denmark Henrik says:

    If that is your attitude, then your son may grow up a racist. The whole world has heard of both incidents. One was a direct attack on free speech. The other we don’t know yet, could be racism, could be parking, probably it is both.


  2. faseehakhanjensen says:

    Thank you for your comment. First of all, it would be quite impossible for my son to grow up as a racist. There are far too many races and cultures that thankfully grace his life for him to know which to single out to be racist against. I consider that a blessing. And second, there is a difference between hearing about the two incidents and receiving in-depth and consistent reporting, analysis, and investigation. That is only happening in Denmark and not for the three Muslim victims. The fact that we still don’t know the motive for the first attack is pretty telling vs all the information we have for the Denmark shootings. Both deserve a full and thorough investigation.


  3. Pookie says:

    Um. First, I’ve seen lots of coverage for both. Second, one has obvious terrorism hallmarks while the other is less clear and according to police and witness statements, may have in fact been because of a parking spot. They searched the guy’s house and don’t see anything that suggests it was a bias crime.

    You seem to be more worried about media coverage, which has been extensive for both tragedies, than the actual tragedies themselves.


    • faseehakhanjensen says:

      Thanks for your comment. My heart is heavy for both tragedies. This violence is senseless, whatever the reason for it. And yes, I am concerned with the media coverage because I believe the relative coverage of both events is telling. I cannot turn on a tv or access a news channel without hearing all about CPH and I imagine 5 days on from the CPH shootings, I’ll still be hearing about it. But what about Chapel Hill? This story has already disappeared. That’s not ok with me. Like millions of others, I want to know why this man murdered 3 young adults. And I think ‘obvious terrorism’ needs to be unpacked. What kind of terrorism is obvious? To me that is laden with preconceived notions of who/what a terrorist is and again, that’s not ok with me. In any case, my argument is that both cases deserve extensive media coverage because violence is disgusting and deplorable regardless of the victims race or religious beliefs.


  4. Denmark Henrik says:

    We agree that both deserve a thorough investigation. And that may take time. Do you have indications it will not happen the three killed in Chapel Hill?

    It is unfortunately very possible for anybody to become racist, I hope you are right about your son, there are no guarantees.


  5. Legible Muslim (@Legible_M) says:

    Thank you for writing this article. It’s very clear from its tone that you’ve dug deep in yourself to write something honest and personal and yet I find it to be very relevant to me and my family.
    At this stage of the game, there is great sadness, fear, anger and pessimism. What I get out of your article is a strength and a will to be positive out of the sadness and the anger, and I feel if this attitude is held by enough people, it can maybe turn the tide of hatred.


    • faseehakhanjensen says:

      Thank you for your comment Legible Muslim. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my post. I genuinely believe that love, tolerance, and A LOT of education on both sides will go a long way to stemming the tide of hatred and fear that surrounds Muslims and Muslim identity. Like violence, hatred only begets hatred so enough already. Let’s try love, respect, and tolerance for a while and see how that changes things.


  6. helen says:

    hej, and hi, and salaam, and thanks for writing this.

    here on the other side of the world, I’m raising another child with a wonderful blend of cultures, traditions and languages. Islam is not a part of our mix at home, but who knows, one day that might be her choice. I hope she’s able to choose freely, without fear of how her choices will be perceived.

    Prejudice against muslims isn’t just an issue for muslim people to deal with. It makes all of us poorer.


    • faseehakhanjensen says:

      Helen – first off, best greeting ever! It made me smile! And second thank you for your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. If we open ourselves and our children up to people of ALL races, cultures, social classes, religions, etc it gives us less to fight over and be hateful about or even scared of. Less prejudice can only be a good thing! Thank you for reading the post and sharing your thoughts!


  7. Galahad says:

    Interesting article. Another aspect of this that may help explain the difference in media coverage of the two incidents is that a shooting in America is far more commonplace than a shooting in Denmark. That is by no means intended to minimize the value of the lives lost in the Chapel Hill shootings, rather the opposite, as there were probably numerous gun-related murders in America on the same day as the Chapel Hill shootings that never even made the news. As such, the media coverage given to the the Muslims that died in the Chapel Hill shooting was in fact far greater than the media coverage devoted to all the other people that were gunned down in America on that same day, be they Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, etc. However, to ignore this sad fact in explaining the difference in media coverage of the events in North Carolina and Denmark and to simply explain the difference through race or religion is a little extreme and misleading.


    • faseehakhanjensen says:

      Thank you for your comment. I think you’re right; the sad fact is that gun crime is much more common in the US and is just a little less shocking to us all, unfortunately. Having said that, I do also think that for many people it was also the way Hicks was then portrayed by the media that caused so much outrage. How is running a story on how he rescued puppies from a puppy mill relevant to anything? How would people have reacted if we had tried to humanize the shooter in Denmark? I’m not saying there are straightforward or easy answers to these questions, but I definitely believe that they are worth asking.


  8. Galahad says:

    I confess, I haven’t seen or read the puppy mill rescue stories. However, I think the difference with the Danish shootings is that the perpetrator has a lengthy criminal history and a clear affiliation with ISIS. In the Chapel Hill case, the motive is less clear so perhaps the question of how someone goes from rescuing puppies to gunning down three Muslims, allegedly over a parking space, is relevant. These same questions are asked in numerous situations, including with jihadists. We have all read articles asking how so and so went from being a quiet, hardworking student to radicalized fundamentalist. I don’t think there is an intent to humanize the perpetrators in these situations but rather better understand how this can happen.


    • faseehakhanjensen says:

      Thanks for your insightful comments. I would, however, disagree with a number of things. First, the Danish shooter did not have a clear affiliation with ISIL. He became radicalized while in prison sometime in either 2013 or 2014, so relatively recently. Second, why is no one asking why Hicks, who was 46, was living in what was largely considered student housing and why he had not settled on a career yet? What would we say about him, and what assumptions would the media have made, if he was say black and not white? Why are we so quick to accept that ’emotional issues’ are an acceptable reason for white people to break the law but not the Danish shooter? I would argue that someone willing to die for a cause he only recently became affiliated with must have ’emotional problems’ but no one seems to care if the Danish shooter was troubled or not. That’s not even a viable conversation (not only because he’s dead) but because the label ‘terrorist’ requires no further explanation or exploration. It is blindly accepted. Third, I would absolutely say that there is an attempt to dehumanize Muslim perpetrators. A case in point is that they list that the Danish shooter smoked cannabis. My initial reaction was ‘and?’ but it’s an attempt to paint him as a deviant and different to us so that we can dislike him and (rightly I would argue) feel no empathy for him. Fourth, this man was a Dane, born and bred. The question that should be asked is how did HE go from being a Dane to identifying with ISIL? But we don’t accept him as a Dane. We can’t because of the combination of the crime he committed, his religion, and because of his background. But he was as Danish as I am British. No different. And finally, if media attention is equal regardless of race or religion, where is all the coverage of the Islamic center that was deliberately burned down in Houston? Or the coverage on the school in Rhode Island that was vandalized with ‘F**k Allah, now this is a hate crime’. It is utterly terrifying to me that this is happening to Muslims in America and no one seems to care because today as an adult it happens to me but in 15 years it happens to my son. That is never going to be ok with me and even if people don’t agree, I will never be quiet on this subject. Just like any parent, I want my son to feel safe but a very hostile, unsafe environment is being created and as I’ve argued, helped by the media (or lack of it). I will say, however, that I am blown away by Denmark’s response to the attacks. A March of Tolerance is absolutely one of the best ways to combat extremism.


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