Last Wednesday, three young African men were murdered in their home, just blocks from Indiana Tech. The murders, which have been described as “mysterious,” much to the chagrin of the American Muslim community, are part of a wave of Islamophobic attacks around the country.
The three victims — Muhannad Tairab, age 17, Adam Mekki, age 20, and Mohamedtaha Omar, age 23 — were part of the primarily African Muslim diaspora in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The three lived in what local police have described as a party house — young people came and went frequently from the premises, which had at one point spurred police to monitor the home for gang activity, though they found none. Tiara and Omar were Muslims, while Mekki was Christian, according to the Washington Post.
The murders took place almost a year after the February 2015 Chapel Hill murders, in which Craig Stephen Hicks shot and killed newly-weds Deah Baraka and Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha over a “parking dispute.” Police autopsy reports said they were all killed in a similar manner, with shots to the head.
“People think back to the Chapel Hill murders where the family and Muslim community firmly believes it is a bias motive,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to the Washington Post. “They look at this and see a similar kind of thing so that’s in everyone’s mind. It brings back those memories and concerns.”
And just like in the aftermath of last year’s shooting, when the hashtag #ourthreeheros was used to draw attention to the deaths at Chapel Hill, a similar one, #ourthreeboys, proliferated on the Twittersphere following the Indiana killings. The tweets called out the hypocrisy and lack of media coverage when the victims of a shooting are Muslim.
Johnetta Elzie, one of the leaders of the activist group We The Movement and coeditor of the Ferguson protest newsletter This Is the Movement, tweeted on February 28:
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) February 28, 2016
Twitter user Kd BHeart said:
Faiza N. Ali, formerly with CAIR’s New York Chapter, tweeted:
— Faiza N. Ali (@faiza_n_ali) February 28, 2016
Generally, media coverage of the murders has been scant, as has any mention in headlines that the murder victims were Muslims. Fox News — the good people behind headlines like “Islamic group plans ‘million Muslim march’ on September 11” and “Murdered By Muslim Terrorists” — was decidedly cooler in its response to the killings: “Police Search For Answers After 3 Men Shot Execution-Style In Indiana.”
Breitbart News performed only slightly better, acknowledging that the victims were Muslim but resorting to using the word “mysterious” to describe the murders.
When the Muslims in question aren’t murder victims, Breitbart has an easier time: “Muslim and Gypsy Gangs Battle For Supremacy on Streets of Europe,” for example, or “As Jihad Advances, Huffington Post Still Pushing Muslim Victimhood Myth.”
Even among the mainstream press, mystery abounded: The New York Times wrote “Indiana Authorities Investigate 3 Fatally Shot in Home,” and the Washington Post, “The Mysterious ‘Execution-Style’ Killings Of Young Men In Indiana.”
Fort Wayne Safety Director Rusty York told local news, “Hopefully, you know, we’ll be able to focus in on exactly what the reason was, but as I said before, no reason to believe this was any type of hate crime, or focused because of their religion or their nationality whatsoever.” Local authorities, however, have not provided any alternative motive.
Just as the Chapel Hill murders were met with indifference last February, so too are the Fort Wayne killings. And in the current political atmosphere, Islamophobia, which has operated at a low level frequency since September 11, 2001, has become common place. Despite Donald Trump’s best attempts, the American media, mainstream or otherwise, can’t seem to look the issue square in the eye.
Three African men, one Christian and two Muslim, were killed execution-style in their home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on the heels of the most nativistic presidential election in decades, and in a similar style to an Islamaphobic killing just a year ago. Calling it “mysterious” is an insult.