Since the fatal shooting of three Muslim students from Chapel Hill nearly a month ago, details have remained relatively scarce regarding the circumstances behind the attack. Accused shooter Craig Hicks, who confessed to the murders of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill dental student Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha, now faces the possibility of the death penalty.
Although there hasn’t been an execution in North Carolina since 2006, the death penalty is still integral to the state’s legal structure. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, there are 150 offenders currently on death row, and four instances of capital punishment were issued in 2014.
There will be some who readily support Hicks’ execution, labeling it a matter of justice. But those who support the death penalty for Hicks without learning the true intent behind his actions are focusing too much on avenging the fallen and not enough on preventing future instances of hatred and injustice. With so little information about the nature of the crime, our time would be better spent respecting and honoring the victims and those affected by this tragedy than speculating on what factors may have contributed.
A key to examining this crime is determining the
perpetrator’s intent, and the reasons the crime was committed in the first place. Currently, there is little that can be said about the intent that can be absolutely accepted as truth.
Initial police reports indicate the shootings were a result of prior disputes over parking between Hicks and the victims. But many have interpreted the attack against these Muslim students to be a tragic demonstration of Islamophobia in the United States. Hicks’ ex-wife, Karen Hicks, has defended him, saying in a press conference last week that, “[Hicks] believed that everybody should be treated equally and fair.” But Hicks’ Facebook page contains numerous posts supporting anti-theism.
Islamic Association of Raleigh chairman Mohamed Elgamal, told the Huffington Post, “We’re not out there looking for revenge. Our focus is more constructive — to continue the legacy of these three people.”
Elgamal speaks to the heart of the matter: we are so caught up in the hypotheticals of the situation — whether Hicks was intentionally targeting a religion or is just a raging lunatic — that we forget the most important matter is what actually happened and those who were actually affected.