Three college students — Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha — were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Tuesday night. Because the students were Muslim, speculation has turned to religion as a possible motivation. After the killing, Twitter users discovered a heartbreaking tweet, from just weeks before, from an account that appeared to be Deah Barakat's:
It's so freaking sad to hear people saying we should "kill Jews" or "Kill Palestinians". As if that's going to solve anything SMH— Deah Barakat (@arabprodigy30) January 28, 2015
The tweet has struck a chord, particularly among Twitter users who believe Barakat's death may have been motivated by religious hatred. That Barakat himself may have expressed a fundamental commitment to peace and tolerance just weeks before being murdered in a potential hate crime is crushing.
To be clear, the account hasn't been confirmed as Barakat's. It's also not clear what the motivation behind the killing was. Craig Stephen Hicks, a Chapel Hill man who turned himself in for the killing, allegedly posted anti-religious statements on a Facebook page — though the page hasn't been confirmed as his, and authorities have yet to comment.
Still, the tweet has been received as an especially powerful symbol because of the degree to which it appears to hit on the larger problem of Islamophobia, which is often premised on the idea that Muslims are violent and can't be trusted. The killing of someone who had just said something so peaceful, out of a conviction that his religion must make him violent, underscores the horrible absurdity of bigotry.
So the tweet about Israelis and Palestinians still captures the gut fury people feel when Muslims are killed for the crime of being Muslims.