Yesterday a horrible thing happened. A man killed 3 people.
Of course, lots of other people killed a lot of other people as well, for all kinds of reasons. But that's not what makes this noteworthy.
The story has the word "Muslim" in it.
I do not want to diminish any aspect of this tragedy, but I do want to point out that it is our conversation about the killing that is really most noteworthy.
The killer was an atheist. The victims were Muslim.
The country is gripped in fear that this may have been a hate crime.
If it had been the other way around, if the killer had been Muslim and the victims atheists, the question would have already been answered. People would run with the story that this was another example of Islamic Terrorism(tm). No more questions would be asked. Why? Because it fits the narrative that far too many of us have in our heads. A narrative that ultimately is more about xenophobia than anything else.
Of course it is that same misguided narrative that makes us assume that this is an example of religious intolerance. Especially given that the perpetrator is -GASP! - an atheist. The wife says that her husband was tolerant of other people's beliefs and even championed civil liberties. Apparently his sense of fair play was more of a universal than a specific. Or maybe his temper and the circumstances got the best of him.
Worse still, this event happens in a local context of tensions between Muslims and Christians over the Duke decision regarding a call to prayer. Creating a situation where the waters are likely to remain murky and the facts are going to have a hard time being seen.
We have got to get over this people.
Almost every faith in the world, not to mention simple common sense, speaks of being kind to your neighbors.
We need not fear what we do not understand or is different from us.
If you find yourself prone to fear, learn so that you do understand.
Human history tells us that we, as a species, are not particularly good or kind to one another.
Humans kill other humans, that has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the previous statement.
Mourn the dead. Comfort the families. Get a fair trial for the accused.
But don't make a bad situation worse by feeding the fires of religious and cultural intolerance.