What the murderer saw in his Muslim victims' eyes

What the murderer saw in his Muslim victims' eyes
Comment: The killer of three promising young Muslims in the US saw in them a threat to the America he thought he understood.
4 min read
24 Feb, 2015
Many have chosen to commemorate the lives of the Chapel Hill victims [Anadolu]

Why did Craig Stephen Hicks kill Diya, Yusur and Razan?

Why would an ordinary middle-aged white man enter his neighbours' home in Chapel Hill and shoot three innocent people in the head? His victims were a 23-year-old dentistry student, his wife, 21, and her 19-year-old sister.

The question itself holds a lot of answers. But one thing for sure is that he did not kill them because of a dispute over a parking space.

It was more than that. He killed them because they were grappling with him over another kind of space. They were grappling with him over his own image of America, an image he thought he was in danger of losing because of them. For him, the three victims represented everything he does not wish to see in his Muslim enemy, or indeed, in anyone who comes from different origins.

The slaughter of innocents and the moral burden. Read more.

Hicks saw a promising future shining in the innocent eyes he extinguished, unlike his own life, devoid of any achievement other than the stockpile of weapons he amassed in his house. The weapons were just like the ideas on religion, atheism and extremism stuffed in his house.

A self-defined patriot

Hicks is an example of a naive, right-wing extremist US male, who considers himself a patriot. He thinks he is like the founders of the US, that he has to fight for it and defend its values.

He did not kill them because of a dispute over a parking space... It was more than that.

He shares a number of underlying and deep-seated racist beliefs, deeming himself naturally superior over other Americans thanks to his skin colour.

But Hicks is not to be blamed. It is not easy to change the beliefs of a man like him as long as the media keeps reminding him of them.

He remains unfamiliar with the real image of the US, an image that contradicts that promoted by the media.

The US is unable to listen to the concerns of a 50-year-old angry man battling with depression with a bleak future ahead of him. Hicks was only waiting for death.

His tragedy was that, as a white man, he was expected to give a lot more for his country and race. His tragedy lies in overestimating himself and in the exaggerated image he created for himself as a white man. Once this image collapsed, he resorted to violence and stupid extremism. He can find many justifications for what he did by blaming the strangers who are changing his "America".

Blinded by hate, bigotry and stereotypes of Muslims, Hicks thinks all Muslims represent the Islamic State group. He believes Muslims are a bunch of religious fanatics who have weapons - just like him - and should be wiped out. If he compared himself to such Muslims, he would definitely consider himself superior. Hicks is reassured by the IS group, for it justifies his own extremism and armament.

Now, what about Diya, Yusur and Razan?

The antithesis of their killer

They were the complete opposite of Hicks. They were the American dream, but for Hicks, they were a nightmare. They are Muslim-born youths who have overcome linguistic, religious and social barriers of their immigrant ancestors. The three Muslim students have no identity issues. They are US Muslims and for them, this is enough.

Diya, Yusur and Razan were the complete opposite of Hicks. They were the American dream.

They were as American as Barack Obama, his wife and daughter. They practice their religion in line with the United State constitution which does not interfere with a person's practice of their religion.

They also pursue their education to ensure a bright future. But above all that, they are peaceful and non-violent.

In the war taking place in Hicks' mind, the three Americans he killed are far more dangerous than the IS group. They are just everything he is unable to become: The idea and bright image of youths in his society. They are Muslims who fearlessly merged into a society Hicks does not understand has changed.

This society has changed so much that his victims have become the new and successful Americans. More horrible for Hicks is that this new society has succeeded even without him and his weapons.

When he entered their home, a war was taking place in his mind. He envisaged himself the last warrior in this battlefield.

What Hicks saw in the eyes of his three innocent victims was another America, one that differs from the one he wanted to live in. He saw a colourful and beautiful America, one that had no room for him. He opted to exterminate his innocent victims to rid himself of the threat they posed to his beloved idea of America.

In his final battle, Hicks was fighting for an America in which he was the only patriot. He perceived himself as its last superman, who would not grow weak, old, sick or dead. But now he has lost sight of his America.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.