I awoke on Monday last week to the horrific news that three Muslim students – Yusor, Deah and Razan – were murdered by a Chapel Hill man. It was a heinous crime that devastated local, national and international communities.
Quickly following the news break, I saw posts reprimanding the media for calling the crime a violent act instead of terrorism. Whereas, if roles in the crime had been reversed, media headlines would've mentioned terrorism. Here is the cartoon. I must admit, it makes an important point about problems of racism and stereotyping in the United States.
But why didn't media call this awful murder a terrorist act?
Terrorism is "the use of violence in the pursuit of political aims."
A lot of terrorist activities happen in the Middle East because the West and especially the United States occupy and force Western philosophies on regions that can't function peacefully under the these political structures. And actually very few terrorist attacks in the United States are from Muslim perpetrators – difficult to believe if you follow mainstream media coverage.
The definition of "terrorism" is without mention of religion or religious affiliation. Terrorism is entirely political, and although some terrorist groups like ISIS in the Middle East or the the All Tripura Tiger Force have religious associations, their primary motivations are political (usually occupation).
The media called Charlie Hebdo a terrorist attack because the biographies of the attackers revealed their political intentions. According to Robert Pape, a professor of political science at Chicago University, they were "powerfully motivated by the Iraq War, by the Abu Ghraib torture abuse."
France also has blatantly racist and anti-islamic policies like banning muslim women from wearing full face coverings.
The Chapel Hill shootings were motivated by reasons that weren't political. Although parking is the alleged reason, I neither believe that was the true reason nor believe it qualifies as political. Any way you look at it, the attacker possessed hatred for his neighbors, which caused him to commit three murders.
Really, what's in a name? Society has almost given terrorism a new meaning. For example, most Americans wouldn't consider the Boston Tea Party an act of terrorism (it undeniably was) because it was initiated by Americans. Perhaps the media should just stop using the word. It perpetuates stereotypes and cultivates racism, and when you get down to it, both the Chapel Hill and Paris attacks are repugnant examples of people hating people.