Chapel Hill Atheist, Craig Hicks, Executes Muslim Family Over Parking Spot

atheist stamp, photo by mark hassed

atheist stamp, photo by mark hassed

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina – Three young people were murdered execution style on Wednesday, February 11th. The community and subsequently people from around the world were shocked by the news that these young Muslims had each been shot in the head.

They were newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's sister, Razan Mohammad.

Barakat who was an American of Syrian descent according to Reuters "wrote in his last Facebook post about providing free dental supplies and food to homeless people in downtown Durham. He was also raising funds for a trip to Turkey with 10 other dentists to provide free fillings, root canals and oral hygiene instruction to Syrian refugee children." (Source: Reuters)

There is a push to have this heinous crime classified as a 'hate crime' because the victims were Muslim and they were murdered by a White American man. The Hate Crime Law was enacted to charge people with crimes against individuals because of their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or disability.

The KKK and other White Supremacists who murdered African-Americans during the Civil Rights era, were brought to justice decades later under this statute. It would seem that Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, fits the profile of a racist, and though this may have been a contributing factor, it doesn't seem to be the only motivation.

According to residents of the complex where Barakat lived, Craig had a volatile disposition and had engaged in numerous hostile altercations with neighbors over limited parking. He was vitriolic and abusive in words and deeds when he perceived that someone had gotten a spot that he deserved. His behavior was frightening and he was definitely out of control even with other non-Muslim residents as described by those who had interacted with him on previous occasions.

However, in every other case Craig did not then act upon his grievance by going to get a gun and shoot the individual who was the object of his contempt. In the case of Barakat, Craig with malice aforethought, went to get a gun, pushed into Barakat's condominium where it is presumed he wantonly executed the three young, bright, high-achievers.

Although Craig's wife has tried to defend his actions by saying that he is not a racist, other news reports claim that he often made fun of the Barakat and his wife Yusor because of their dress. Why he chose to kill Barakat, Yusor, and Razan and not others is at the crux of the matter. Perhaps racism was the a factor in the murders, but it may have been his anti-religious stance that was the subtext.

Last month, Hicks posted a photograph that said, “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.” It is also reported that he is also an Anti-theists, which is an even more radical sect of atheists who are particularly outspoken and confrontational about their disbelief, researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga said in a recent study.

"Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental," the researchers wrote. "The anti-theist has a clear and -- in their view, superior -- understanding of the limitations and danger of religions." (Source: CNN)

For someone who took umbrage with God, and who was already predisposed to dislike Muslims, it is quite likely that by eradicating these young people, who were devout and publicly Muslim, he was able to kill two birds with one stone. Meaning, he was able to demonstrate his disdain of religion and its adherents, particularly those who followed the Abrahamic faiths - Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, especially the latter for which he had a virulent dislike; plus kill Barakat, his new wife, and her sister.

We may never know the answer, and in fact, no answer will assuage the pain of the parents of these three young victims. However, whether or not these murders are classified as a 'hate crime,' the killings shed light on the increasing levels of Islamophobia both in America and Europe, as well as a trend towards Secularism and Atheism in our society.

When a man does not believe in a higher power or accountability, he will do whatever is right in his own eyes, and is capable of doing whatever it takes to get what he wants. In this case, Craig the atheist wanted a parking space.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
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ISIS, Al Qaeda, Houthi Rebels Compete in Yemen

Local Fighters Team with al-Qeada, Abyan Province, Yemen, Photo by Joe Sheffer

Local Fighters Team with al-Qeada, Abyan Province, Yemen, Photo by Joe Sheffer

YEMEN - ISIS has infiltrated Yemen, a country already flooded with terrorist groups. The Syria-based terror group, known for its extreme brutality and shockingly successful recruitment of outsiders, has gained a tentative foothold alongside the Al Qaeda forces already present.

Al Qaeda remains the dominant presence, but the competition for recruits and support may sway in favor of the more financially-appealing ISIS. This friction between the two groups can spell increased trouble for civilians in Yemen and elsewhere. In-country fighting and instability has escalated, as is evidenced by a gun battle between the two groups last month and White House analysts fear the competition will become a race to see who can hit US soil first and hardest. (Source: CNN)

Another key player in the Yemeni crisis is the Houthis, a rebel group demanding greater control of what they claim is a western-controlled government and protesting unequal distribution of resources. They belong to the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam, also known as Fivers, a sect of Islam almost exclusively present in Yemen. They are from the Shi'ite minority similar to the Twelvers found mainly in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran and are known for being most similar to Sunni Muslims in matters of religious law and rulings. They do however, believe in the concept of an Imamate as being essential to their religion, which makes them distinct from Sunnis. (Global Security.org, "Zaydi Islam”, by John Pike)

Pressure from Houthi fighters resulted in the resignation of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. His departure triggered thousands of Yemeni citizens to counter-protest the Houthi actions. (Source: BBC)

Yemen, although among the world's poorest countries, has strategic political and geographical importance. The terror activity poses a danger to the U.S., who is often the target for attacks. In addition, it is a gateway for foreign fighters to go to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, providing ample recruiting opportunities for ISIS and other terror groups. The U.S. government had found allies in Yemen officials and was working with their government to develop counter-terrorism methods. Now that the shaky government has been obliterated by rebels and terrorist groups compete for dominance and destruction, the future of Yemen is unclear.

Ramadan: Airplanes, Athletes, and Reality TV

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ACCRA, Ghana -- Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and contemplation, began on June 28th.

Until recently, the concept of this religious event was distant to me as there isn't a large Muslim population in my North Carolina home.  However, since coming to work in Accra, the capital and largest city of Ghana, my interactions with Muslim people has increased.

I work next to a lovely Muslim village full of women in brightly colored Hijabs, and have witnessed demonstrations of peaceful coexistence, when in every conference that I attend, the opening prayer is done by a Christian and the closing prayer given by a Muslim.

Under terms of Ramadan, Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset. This fast means no food and in some cases no water, but it's also a time of restraint for other things, such as personal vices, unkind thoughts, and angry actions.

While I am not partaking of the fast myself, but out of respect me and many non-Muslims choose not to eat in public during Ramadan. Until I restricted my public eating habits, I never realized he availability of food. Vendors in every corner, sales ladies walking through traffic jams balancing baskets of bread or fruit or candy on their heads and selling their wares to people in cars, bicyclers pushing ice-cream carts.... All forbidden during Ramadan.

Even though it clearly requires a great deal of restraint, at least it seems pretty straightforward -- a time of self-sacrifice and re-devotion to Allah, a time to cut out the bad and nurture the good. However, the blessed month can come with some unexpected twists and hurdles.

For instance, while traveling. Technically, the Quran gives a pass to travelers, suggesting they keep up their strength for he journey and make up the missed days later. However, many Muslims continue adhering to as many guidelines as possible.  Timing is important during Ramadan, and a hassle for anyone flying through time zones. There is a time for prayers, a time for fasting, and a time for Suhoor (pre-fasting meal) and Iftar (meal to break the fast.) In places with a heavy Muslim population, there are public announcements or alerts reminding Muslims of the time.

I was caught off guard while watching TV last week when my regularly scheduled programming switched suddenly to play Arabic music and show a passage from the Qur'an. However, those mid-flight have a bit more trouble than those at home watching TV.  Luckily, airlines are usually sympathetic.  Recently, Emirates announced that along with providing traditional Muslim sunrise and sunset meals, with items such as vegetable samosas, dates and baklava, it would also be using a special tool that calculated latitude, longitude and altitude to provide the most accurate possible timing for the ceremonies.

Back on solid ground, athletes may also have problems.  This year, Ramadan coincides with the World Cup, which causes some Muslim players extra difficulties.  On the other hand, the Qur'an does give an exemption to warriors about to go into battle, so perhaps Football is covered in that fine print.  Ramadan's timing may even have affected betting odds on teams, as some suggested teams from Muslim regions might have performance issues.  France, Germany, Belgium, and Algeria all had prominent Muslim players and, in my humble opinion, they all played admirably, fast or no fast.  That may be thanks to a special team of nutritionists FIFA provided to advise the fasting players.

As well as lack of food and hydration fears, disrupted sleep schedules (for nighttime prayers) may result in athletes not being up to par. In the past, some coaches held nighttime practices so the players could be well nourished during practice, so at least the nutrition issue would be solved, if not the disrupted sleep issue. Especially in hotter regions, it isn't uncommon for any Muslim to burn the midnight oil during Ramadan, which unfortunately can lead to an increase in car accidents during the month.

On the other hand, in Brazil sun up to sundown is only 12 hours, so if athletes make sure their sunrise meal is adequate and they start the day hydrated, it shouldn't be a problem.  In the Netherlands, however, Muslims would have to be much hardier, as a day lasts almost 20 hours there this time of year. Australian Muslims have it easiest, with only ten hours of fasting.

Perhaps one of the more bizarre results of the clash of modernity and Ramadan is its recent mingling with Reality TV.  Though not without its share of controversy, as some think the TV personalities don't present the proper air of modesty and good taste representative of the faith.  However, some shows are better than others, and such idiosyncrasies vary from show to show.

For example, one where teens try to recite the longest passage from the Qur'an to win prizes, or shows where gifts of charity are awarded specifically to those less fortunate, to the "ever popular" cooking shows that in this instance, focus on Suhoor and Iftar -- each with the apparent intent of declaring that even the oldest and most sacred traditions can keep pace with changing times.

If you are not partaking in Ramadan, please be considerate to those who are.  Know that employees may need time off and it's not a "holiday" or "vacation" -- it requires dedication, commitment, and adjustment.  Extra attention to charity or one's family life, as well as daily prayers, require a more flexible schedule and understanding colleagues.  If in a Muslim neighborhood or workplace, be discrete in your dress and eating habits. And try to eat an Iftar feast if you get the opportunity.

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem!

Indonesian Women Suffer Higher Rates of Caining as Punishment

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 23:06 p.m. DST, 20 May 2014

Taliban beating woman in public Photo by: RAWAEAST ACEH, Indonesia - A 25-year-old widow claims she was raped by eight men after they allegedly found her with a married man in her home in Lhokbani, a village in East Aceh district. The man, 40, and woman were beaten and doused with sewage before they were turned over to Islamic police in the Aceh province.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, consisting of 240 million people. More than 90% of Indonesians describe themselves as Muslims though most practice a moderate form of Islam. Indonesia has a policy of secularism but Aceh, a principally Muslim province on the northern tip of Sumatra, practices a version of Sharia Islamic law.

The right to use Islamic law was granted to Aceh in a bid to end a long-running separatist insurgency and give the province more autonomy. Special police enforce this law and regular police forces enforce criminal law for cases such as rape.

Ibrahim Latif, head of Sharia law in the district, said his office recommends the widow and the man be caned nine times for violating religious law. Latif believes the two violated Sharia law simply by being in the same room together, though Latif claims that the widow and the man admitted to having had sex earlier. He is married with five children.

Police have arrested three of the eight men and are searching for the others. Latif said the eight could be caned for the rape but, “it will be too lenient if they just received the same punishment of nine strokes.” Caning was introduced as punishment with the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law of 2001 for crimes such as alcohol consumption, adultery, being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a spouse or relative, and eating, drinking, or selling food during the sunlight hours of Ramadan, a month of fasting.

Many of Aceh’s Sharia laws are thought to target women, such as an incident this spring when police pulled women over and forced them to sit sideways on motorbikes, legs dangling near the rear wheel. The police and members of the public conduct raids to ensure women adhere to the local dress codes, and in 2012, 62 women in Bireuen district were detained for wearing tight clothing.

Lt. Col Hariadi, East Aceh police chief said the men arrested are being questioned on charges of rape. One of the accused, a 13-year-old boy, will be charged as an adult but prosecuted in a closed-door trial. The criminal charge of rape carries a maximum incarceration of 15 years. Officials have said that the sexual assault will not be taken into consideration in determining the punishment of the religious crime she was committing.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCElswick

Sudan: Pregnant Woman Condemned to Death or Religious Conversion

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Olivia Elswick, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:13 a.m. DST, 16 May 2014

Atsbi village, Tigray, Christian Woman, Photo by Evgeni ZotovKHARTOUM, Sudan - Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, has until Thursday to either denounce her Christian faith or face a death sentence.

When Ibrahim’s father, a Sudanese Muslim, abandoned her at age six, her mother, an Ethiopian Orthodox, raised her as a Christian. Ibrahim identifies herself as a Christian, but despite this she is considered by the courts to be a Muslim, as her father was.

She was reported by a family member in August 2013 and was arrested on charges of adultery. Ibrahim has been convicted by a Khartuom court for abandoning her Muslim faith in favor of Christianity, an action that, under Sharia law, indicates that she committed adultery with her husband, a non-Muslim.

Because the law considers her a Muslim, her marriage to a Christian man is considered void and adulterous. Marriage to a non-Muslim man is prohibited for Muslim women. Ibrahim and her husband have a 20-month-old son and she is expected to give birth to her second child sometime next month.

In past cases involving pregnant women, the Sudanese government has waited until the woman gave birth before executing a sentence. If sentenced to death she will likely be flogged with 100 lashes then hanged.

The blatant disrespect for freedom of religion and interference in the personal life of Sudanese citizens is outraging people in Sudan and abroad. Authorities have closed Khartuom University indefinitely after Sudanese students there mounted a protest begging for the end to human rights violations, more freedom, and better social and economic conditions.

In Khartuom, foreign embassies are urging the government to rethink its decision. A joint statement issued from the embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands says, “We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one's right to change one's faith or beliefs, a right which is enshrined in international human rights law as well as in Sudan's own 2005 Interim Constitution.

We further urge Sudanese legal authorities to approach Ms. Meriam's case with justice and compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people,” the joint statement read.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @OCElswick

Cannibalism, Child Mutilations in Central African Republic

Central african child peers through wall, photo by pierre holtz

Central african child peers through wall, photo by pierre holtz

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa -- Violence among Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains alarmingly high.

Despite intervention efforts, death and displacement continue. In this troubled environment, there have been reports of cannibalism as well as revenge-killings targeting children.

Ouandja “Mad Dog” Magloire, a Christian, has admitted to beating and stabbing a Muslim man before dousing him with petrol, setting him on fire, and eating parts of his body.

Magloire claims revenge as his motive, saying that Muslims had killed his pregnant wife, his sister-in-law and her baby.

The victim of cannibalism, who was attacked in broad daylight by Magloire and approximately 20 other men, was not personally connected to Magloire’s losses.

Other revenge crimes involve children who are mutilated or beheaded. Over 130 children have been killed or maimed since January, usually in machete or knife attacks. These are clearly crimes against humanity, but there is no justice system currently stable enough to hold anyone responsible for their actions.

Not only are children preyed upon in retaliation attacks, they are also often recruited into armed groups. During the evacuation and displacement of over 500,000 individuals, already-vulnerable children are more likely to be unattended and harder to protect.

Hope may come in the form of Catherine Samba-Panza. She was elected in January to serve a one-year term of interim president while the CAR, hopefully, gains stability. She has no connection to either Muslim or Christian groups and urges both sides to lay down their arms. So far, nobody seems to be listening.

Students Accused of "Devil Worship" in Jordan

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 11:16 a.m. DST, 28 March 2013

Jordan Student Elections, Photo by Roba Al-AssiBEIRUT, JORDAN - Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for the release of five Al al-Bayt university students who are accused of desecrating the Quran and engaging in devil worship.

The students were accused of ripping and burning Quran manuscripts while performing a “religious ritual.” Prior to their detainment, they were attacked by a crowd of other students. HRC wants these attackers to be brought to justice.

HRC additionally said that authorities in Jordan should investigate reported remarks, which include remarks by well-known Salafi Shaikh, that advocate for the students’ deaths. Further, HRC said that authorities should prosecute those who made incitements to murder.

Other Al al-Bayt students alleged that the five detainees were engaged in “devil worship” and desecrated the Quran, however relatives to the detainees claim there have been no evidence of criminal behavior presented.

One United States based rights groups said that the sister of one of the detained students said that approximately 200 students attacked her sister and four others after the desecration of the Quran rumor spread throughout campus, Aljazeera reports. The group statement further said, “She said the attackers appeared to have targeted the five students because they frequently dress in black and are rock music devotees.”

A father of one of the detainees told HRC that his son phoned him in the morning of March 12 begging for help, saying, “Father they are beating me and I don’t know why.”

The Jordanian news website al-Sabeel reported on March 21 that the Office of the Public Prosecutor extended their detention for another seven days while they investigated them for “sowing discord [fitna] and defaming religion.” The father told HRC that his lawyers said that the authorities have not filed any charges.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a majority Muslim country with over 90% of citizens practicing different forms of Islam. The Constitution provides for the freedom to practice one’s religion, so long as they are in accordance with the customs in Jordan, and so long as they do not violate public order or morality.

HRC said that Jordan is obligated as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect the rights to security for all people within the country, and to uphold rights of freedom of expression and thought, conscience, and religion. Additionally, under international law, Jordan cannot prosecute people for peacefully expressing their views and should protect them from attempts by others to limit their ability to express their opinions and religious beliefs.

It remains unclear what actually happened on March 12. If the detainees were burning the Quran, they could be brought in under charges of violation of public order. However, they have yet to be charged with a crime. Relatives of the detainees claim that the students did not commit the crimes they are accused of.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki