The point-blank shootings of three young Muslim-Americans in Chapel Hill, N.C., come at a tense time for the seven-million-strong U.S. Muslim population, says the Christian Science Monitor. The motives in Tuesday’s shootings are not yet clear; the FBI is investigating the case as a possible hate crime. The victims’ families call it an anti-Muslim hate crime. Police say they have not come up with hard evidence of a bias crime, even after searching the computer of the self-avowed atheist who turned himself in, Stephen Hicks. The shootings came after an argument about a parking space.
The incident comes as the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the group’s campaign of beheadings has made many Americans feel that the threat of Islamist terror is increasing, say many polls. Just as anti-Islam events are percolating, the U.S. appears to have little patience for violence against followers of different religions. By shocking many Americans into outrage and forcing them to reexamine prejudices, the shootings could help counter creeping anti-Muslim fears. “It may be a moment where people say, 'What is this?' ” says Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine. “You can have a moment that doesn't completely reshape perceptions, but still has a big cultural impact.”