Did "American Sniper" trigger the Chapel Hill shootings of three Muslims in America?

Published February 13th, 2015 - 11:26 GMT

An Arab-American civil rights group says the release of the controversial film American Sniper has caused an increase in Islamophobia in the United States, leading to more violent attacks against Muslims.

Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said on Thursday that right-wing US political commentators have also played a significant role in pedaling hate against Muslims, resulting in the murder of three young Muslims in North Carolina.  

A middle-aged white man shot dead Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus on Tuesday afternoon.

Friends and families of the victims say the killings were motivated by hatred against Muslims and Islam.

Ayoub denounced the biased coverage given to the tragic incident by America’s mainstream media.

He said the US media coverage would have been different if the perpetrators, rather than the victims, were Muslims. “Absolutely 100 per cent this would have been covered differently if the roles were reversed.”

“This country needs to realize that acts of terrorism are not confined to a single religion or ethnicity,” he said. “This [Islamophobia] is something that needs to stop and we would like the media to pay more attention and cover this more to show the impact of hate crime and hate speech.”

Ayoub called the last month release of American Sniper “the turning point” in the recent surge in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

The movie is based on the autobiography of a notorious US Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, was deployed to Iraq and is known for being the most lethal sniper in American history.

In his book on which the movie was based, Kyle writes of killing 60 Iraqi "savages". "Savage, despicable evil. That's what we were fighting in Iraq.”

Ayoub said, “It may not be directly linked to the film, but the overall way that Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment are moving in this country is portrayed in the words of those who watched American Sniper.”

He also urged extreme rightist commentators to tone down their “Islamophobic rhetoric”.

 “You have people on the extreme right that just push that Islam is an evil religion and Muslims and Arabs are these evil people. They could take action and tone that down a little bit - you are entitled to your opinion but don’t attack the community and don’t paint us with a broad brush.”

The tragic murders of three bright Muslim students have caused outrage among Muslims all over the world. Many claim the crimes would have gained more attention if the attacker had been a Muslim and the victims were non-Muslim whites.

According to reports, all three were high achievers who regularly volunteered for charity work in the area. Barakat was a second-year student at the University of North Carolina’s graduate school of dentistry, and his wife was planning to enroll in the same institution later this year. Her sister was an undergraduate at North Carolina State University who has won an award for her artistic talents.

In an interview with Press TV on Thursday, an international lawyer in Indonesia said, America’s media, its security agencies and political apparatus have the blood of the murdered American Muslim students on their hands.

“Considering the calculated, long term, and officially sanctioned demonization of Muslims in the United Sates, at a moral level, America's  media, its security agencies and political apparatus have the of blood these victims on their hands,” Barry Grossman said.

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