Washington, D.C. | www.mpac.org | September 16, 2022 — Following years of advocacy from MPAC and other civil society organizations, the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting was finally recognized as a hate-fueled Islamophobic attack at the White House’s #UnitedWeStand Summit. The classification of the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting as a hate-fueled attack by the Biden Administration is a welcomed step, but more needs to be done to ensure that hate-fueled attacks against American Muslims and other minorities are properly recognized by our government and law enforcement agencies as the investigations and criminal prosecutions of the perpetrators are occurring.
At the #UnitedWeStand Summit, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, whose brother and sisters-in-law were murdered in the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting, was able to share her story against hate-fueled violence. The summit, hosted by President Biden, highlighted everyday heroes in our community who build bridges and put their differences aside to prevent acts of hate-fueled violence, like the murders in Chapel Hill. Dr. Barakat emerged as a spokesperson against the hatred, xenophobia, and violence targeting American Muslims after the tragic death of the “Three Winners”, which was originally masked as a parking lot dispute.
Despite evidence of obvious prejudice against the victims as the killer pleaded guilty in court in 2019, the case was not prosecuted as a hate crime by the Department of Justice, nor under North Carolina law. As a response to the incorrect classification of the motive behind the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting, State Senator Jay Chaudhuri (NC-15), alongside family members of the three victims and activists, introduced the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2021), which has yet to pass in the state’s legislative branch. State Senator Chaudhuri continues to fight for this legislation which would create a felony hate crime statute, allowing the courts to increase the severity of punishment when sentencing hate-fueled violence perpetrators.
Congress has also failed in creating laws that empower our law enforcement agencies to more effectively identify and prosecute hate-fueled violence against American Muslims. Father and father-in-law of the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting victims, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha brought the nation to tears with his testimony at the 2019 U.S. House Judiciary Hearing addressing “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism.” Yet, no successful legislation followed that could have potentially corrected how the killer was prosecuted, nor expand how our criminal code prosecutes hate-fueled violence against American Muslims.
We at MPAC are heartened that the White House has finally recognized this case for what it is — a hate crime rooted in the racism and bigotry dividing our country. Legitimizing the American Muslim voice is long overdue as anti-Islamic sentiments are pervasive across the nation. MPAC recognizes this as a collective win for victims of Islamophobia and for other minority communities who similarly are left unprotected due to the lack of appropriate and cohesive hate-crime legislation. Following the #UnitedWeStand Summit, we will continue engaging with the Biden Administration and Congress to work towards an America that is true to the ideals envisioned by the Founding Fathers.