Students at the University of Washington raised the question at a rally in honor of three young black men who were shot execution-style in Indiana: Why the lack of news coverage?
A gathering of around 60 UW students and community members on the steps near Red Square at a rally for Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, Adam Mekki, 20, and Muhannad Tairab, 17, who were murdered together in a house last week in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Students questioned whether the lack of public response was due to race or religion. Omar and Tairab were Muslim. Mekki was Christian.
The students at the UW rally held signs that read: “Where is the media?,” “What if they were white?” and “Black Lives Matter.” Attendees at UW chanted “Black Muslims Matter,” and hosted speakers and released black balloons in honor of the young men.
“There seems to be a lack of sympathy and empathy that’s contributing to the silence around the deaths. It’s as if the loss of black life is just another statistic rather than the loss of a human life,” said junior Ruweida Ahmed.
The students at the University of Washington said they felt the murders should have been shocking enough to receive greater media attention than it has. They believe race and religion impacted the response.
Students have criticized the response to the murders in the media and by public officials. For instance, Indiana Governor Mike Pence promptly tweeted his condolences after three international students from Ethiopia and Nigeria who attended Manchester University died in a car crash in February. But more than a week after the shootings, Pence has not offered condolences for the murders of Omar, Mekki and Tairab.
Isra Ayesh, senior at UW Bothell, spoke at the vigil. She said the police’s quick dismissal of the possibility of a hate crime is a pattern in cases where Muslims are victims.
“They provided no evidence as to why they ruled out a hate crime so quickly,” she said.
Speakers said the response to the murder in Indiana seems to be less than response to the execution-style murders of a Muslim American family in their North Carolina home last year. The shooting of Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill was covered and followed by national media.
But students now question whether the increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric by politicians and media has resulted in decreased empathy towards American Muslims.
“There are individuals who could be the next President of the United States saying we should get rid of Muslims,” said junior Sakin Ibrahim. “Muslims, blacks and especially black Muslims are being dehumanized. That’s why there isn’t an outcry.”
The event on Red Square organized by the school’s Muslim Student Association, Somali Student Association and United Muslim Relief, was one of the many vigils and rallies that were held throughout the United States and Canada for the victims, many under the social media hashtag #ourthreebrothers.
Police told Fort Wayne reporters this week they have ruled out a hate crime, and but in response to inquiries from national media, they have called the FBI to review the evidence in the shooting. Police added that there have been few tips in the case. The Islamic Community of Greater Fort Wayne announced a $10,000 reward for information in the case.