Who your friends are

Three students were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina yesterday, two sisters and the husband of one of them. All three were Muslims, but the police are saying the shooting may have been to do with a parking dispute.

A 46-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting deaths of three students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

Police said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” may have been a factor in the shootings Tuesday evening.

The suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, turned himself in to police later in the night and is being held in the Durham County Jail without bond. He was cooperating with investigators, police said Wednesday morning.

You know what? He’s on Facebook. He’s a vocal atheist. I’m not FB friends with him but I have no fewer than 49 mutual friends with him, which is creepy as hell.

Ex-Muslims of North America posted on the subject an hour ago; a public post.

This is an atrocity and should be condemned as such, by Muslims and atheists alike. We, more than anyone, understand the dangers Islamism pose to individuals and to the world. But no matter what, opposition to Islamism CANNOT become opposition to Muslims. We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community – violence is never the answer.

It’s been becoming ever more apparent over the past few years (it was apparent to some people all along, and I’m not one of those people – I was wrong) that combative atheism is attractive to a lot of mean, belligerent, hostile, sadistic people. I still think a certain amount of combativeness is necessary for movements of social change, but…now I spy a danger, to quote Polonius or whoever it was.

About those three students whose lives were taken away from them –

The victims were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Barakat was Mohammad’s husband; Abu-Salha was her sister, the school said.

Barakat was a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, who was raising money on a fundraising site to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

He had been married for just over a month to Yusor Mohammad, who was planning to begin her dental studies at UNC in the fall, according to the school.

Abu-Salha was a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.



  1. moarscienceplz says

    You know what? He’s on Facebook. He’s a vocal atheist. I’m not FB friends with him but I have no fewer than 49 mutual friends with him, which is creepy as hell.

    Six degrees of separation, baby. We all are much more closely connected that we usually realize. That’s why falling into old patterns of us vs. them is so wrong. As Pogo the ‘possum said, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”

  2. says

    Well I don’t usually have 49 mutual friends with murderers. This is definitely not a matter of just having that many mutual friends with every random person – this is a matter of atheism as a social circle. (It’s also because I get a lot of friend requests and accept many because I feel mean if I don’t, and one criterion is just number of mutual friends.) This is someone I have significant overlap with.

  3. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I still think a certain amount of combativeness is necessary for movements of social change

    Yep. I’m determined to find that line that must exist. That line between being vocal and outspoken about ideas that hurt people without hurting innocent people in the process.

    I really hope that line exists.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    There is a guy in my atheist club who is a gun nut, too. He used to pop up with some pretty raw libertarian comments quite often in meetings, but lately he has kept his speech much less in quantity and lower in provocation, so I hope he is starting to recognize that other people have a right to their spot in the sun, too. Still, it will not shock me if I hear he was involved in something like this someday.

  5. lorn says

    Three dead is not an outcome anyone should celebrate.

    That said, I’m not going to draw any firm conclusions as to what might have gone on or make any judgments about the people involved. Speculating on what amounts to hearsay and very early assessments would just add to the confusion. So I wait for more, hopefully better, information. Based on past experience, odds are the story will go through a couple of shockingly divergent versions before the dust settles and we have something resembling a clear picture of what went on.

  6. spectator says

    Kudos to your Ophelia for taking a serious look at how the online atheist community may be providing cover for radical anti-theist hatred and violent anti-religion rhetoric. That takes ethics and guts!

  7. Blanche Quizno says

    Spoiler: Unpopular opinion ahead.

    That said, if this murderer were identifying himself as a secular humanist, we’d have a very good basis for feeling shocked – secular humanism is a moral and ethical system. Atheism is not. “Atheist” is very much like “bald” in that it carries no moral or ethical connotations. The one is a lack of belief in gods; the other is a lack of hair.

    Since atheism has no moral or ethical connotations, I think a person’s identification with groups with moral/ethical connotations should be of far more importance to us in general. An atheist who identifies with the Tea Party is likely to be quite a bit different from the atheist who identifies with the secular humanists or the Unitarian Universalists, for example.

    Although one might hope that atheists might trend more a certain direction (based on one’s own embodiment of that direction in conjunction with one’s atheism), we should hope to move the atheist organizations toward that direction, which I think is happening (though slowly and with notable douchebaggy bumps in the road). Not all atheists hope for atheism to be seen as providing a superior ethical foundation than theism, but enough do that I have confidence for our future as a force for good within society.


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