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deah-yusor-razan-003The shooting deaths of three Muslim university students last week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has ignited a firestorm of debate about the killer’s motives. According to his neighbors, Craig Stephen Hicks, the 46-year-old charged with murdering Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, was an angry man hostile towards religion, irritated by noise in his apartment complex and testy when it came to parking spots, the New York Times reports.

On Monday, a grand jury indicted Hicks on three counts on murder. The FBI opened a “preliminary inquiry” into the possibility of federal law violations.

But could it be, some are asking, that Hicks simply snapped? That this was not a hate crime motivated by underlying anti-Muslim animus, but rather was the tragic ending to a simple misunderstanding over noisy neighbors who parked in the wrong space?

The idea that a parking dispute would trigger such senseless violence isn’t farfetched in today’s America. But bringing up things like “parking disputes” in order to avoid conversations about deep-seated prejudices isn’t unheard of, either. In fact, “parking concerns” are a pretext that seems to plague the American Muslim community, especially when mosques are involved.

In November, residents of Des Plaines, Illinois, packed a city council meeting to express their annoyance over a local mosque’s plans to expand its parking lot.

“Mosque parking” has also been a hot-button issue in a Michigan town.

And in an Oklahoma town.

One Houston, Texas, community posted bluntly worded “No Muslim Parking” placards at a local mosque.

And in New York, it wasn’t just “parking” that bothered some people; they also took issue with Muslim cab drivers who audaciously double-parked their taxis on the street while they prayed.

The Garden State has had its share of #parkingwhileMuslim problems.

New Hampshire has, too.

And for the love of God, let’s not forget Virginia.

That state may be “for lovers,” but according to one virulently anti-Muslim website, it’s also where the followers of Islam are waging a “parking jihad.” In Georgia, citizens who held “Ban Islam!” signs ahead of a city council vote on whether or not to allow a Muslim group to rent space for weekly worship had an opportunity to speak once the meeting started. What did they cite as their concern? Too many benevolent and faithful Muslims spreading goodwill and hospitality in their community? Nope. It was parking.

Read more at Mic.

Recently, I published a piece on Islamophobia in America for Oxford Islamic Studies Online’s Focus On series, which is a portal of the Oxford site that is available to the public and hosts scholarly pieces on a variety of issues. Click this image above, or visit this link to view the piece.

Last week’s Heritage Foundation panel on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi was bound to be an ugly affair, what with the presence of panelist Brigitte Gabriel, a self-described “terrorism analyst” with a laundry list of offensive statements about Islam and Arabs. Sure enough, when attendee Saba Ahmed, an American University law school student, explained that not all Muslims are terrorists, Gabriel retorted that “the peaceful majority were irrelevant” in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the way that peaceful Germans were irrelevant during the Holocaust.

That prompted much hand-wringing, primarily on cable news, about the supposed silence of “moderate Muslims” in this supposed age of Islamist extremism. What no one on either side of the debate questioned, though, was the legitimacy of the phrase “moderate Muslims” itself.

Read more at The New Republic, where this piece was originally published on June 25, 2014.

How Wild Anti-Muslim Bikini Stories Spread on the Internet

 

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Here’s a classic example of how anti-Muslim hate grows on the Internet:

One week ago, the Internet was abuzz over reports that Saudi Arabia fined three Italian tourists $3500 for wearing bikinis in the presence of Muslims. The story was circulated on an obscure Italian-language news site, which referenced an earlier story published on April 28, 2014 at Giornale de Corrriere.

Here’s a screenshot of the original piece:

The original story, published on April 28, 2014

The original story, published on April 28, 2014

 

The sensational headline was too good for Muslim-baiters. Though not one single Western news source mentioned the story (which in today’s world should have sent up major red flags), they rushed forward without taking a moment to verify the source and reproduced it on their blogs. Off it went, zipping through the web and social media.

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