Originally published at The Electronic Intifada
An Arab American man was shot and killed in front of his home last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a neighbor who terrorized the victim’s family for years, referring to them by such racist slurs as “dirty Arabs” and “dirty Lebanese” who “throw gay people off the roof.”
Khalid Jabara, a 37-year-old of Lebanese Christian descent, was shot to death on his front porch on Friday.
Stanley Vernon Majors, a 61-year-old with a history of violence, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm after a felony conviction.
For the three years prior to the killing of Khalid, the Jabara family had endured threats, racial epithets, assaults and a vehicular attack that left Khalid’s mother Haifa with a broken shoulder and other injuries.
Majors spent eight months in jail awaiting an October trial on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and other charges related to the car ramming of Haifa Jabara. But in May he was released on bond, despite a prosecutor telling the court that Majors was “a substantial risk to the public.”
“This suspect had a history of bigotry against our family,” said Khalid’s sister Victoria Jabara Williams in a statement on behalf of the family that she posted on Facebook on Monday.
“He often called us ‘dirty Arabs,’ ‘filthy Lebanese,’ ‘Aye-rabs,’ and ‘Mooslems,’” the statement said. “He made xenophobic comments about many in our community – ‘filthy Mexican’ and the ‘n’ word were all part of his hateful approach to anyone from a different background.”
“My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years,” Williams Jabara wrote. “Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our repeated protests, he was released from jail with no conditions on his bond — no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, nothing.”
In a motion filed in May, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler urged the court against releasing Majors on bond, warning that he “has demonstrated a habitual disregard” for the law and the welfare of Oklahoma citizens and “has demonstrated a wanton disregard for the life of [Haifa Jabara].”
Majors was also convicted in 2009 in Los Angeles of threatening to “terrorize” and sentenced to 16 months in prison.
The Tulsa prosecutor asked the judge to deny bond or raise it to the maximum allowed for the charges: $300,000. Instead, District Judge William LaFortune increased Majors’ bond from $30,000 to just $60,000, allowing him to get out of jail.
Three months later Khalid Jabara was shot dead and Majors was charged with his murder.
Police portrayed the slaying of Jabara as a tragedy that could not have been prevented, caused by an ongoing feud between neighbors.
According to the police, Jabara called to report someone knocking on his windows at 5:00 pm last Friday.
Police say they arrived to Jabara’s home at 6:30pm, determined there was nothing they could do and left at 6:40pm.
Jabara was killed eight minutes later.
Jabara’s family described the sequence of events much differently.
“Only 30 minutes prior to my brother’s shooting, Khalid called the police stating this man had a gun and that he was scared for what might happen,” Victoria Jabara Williams’ statement on behalf of the family said. “The police came and told him there was nothing to be done. Minutes later, the suspect murdered our brother with four shots.”
According to court documents, both Khalid and Haifa Jabara were granted protective orders against Majors that prohibited him from having any contact with them or possessing a firearm for five years.
Yet according to FOX23, police maintained that “Majors was not doing anything to warrant a search of his home.”
In response to the Jabara family’s accusations of police negligence, the Tulsa Police Department’s public information officer Jeanne MacKenzie told The Electronic Intifada that “officers responded to a suspicious activity call earlier in the evening called in by the victim” but upon arrival were “unable to locate any criminal activity.”
Asked why police didn’t question Majors, Mackenzie replied, “it is too early to comment on all aspects of this investigation. The homicide unit is still preparing their investigation to present to the district attorney’s office.”
History of hate and violence
Majors was arrested in March 2015 for allegedly violating the protective order against Haifa Jabara. According to the report by the arresting officer, Jabara told police that Majors’ had entered her driveway and yelled “Fuck you” and “I want to kill you.”
“While taking Majors into custody, he was asked to put down his beer multiple times by officers,” the report states. “Majors chugged his beer before he put it down.” He was also reportedly “uncooperative” the entire time.
Haifa filed the protective order against Majors in 2013 for stalking her, knocking on her windows late at night and launching into racist tirades against her and her family.
In early 2015, Khalid filed for a protective order as well.
Six months later, Majors allegedly tried to make good on his threat. On 12 September 2015, he allegedly rammed his car into Haifa Jabara while she was jogging, leaving her with a “broken shoulder, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken nose, head trauma and fractured ribs amongst other injuries,” according to her family.
The district attorney charged Majors with “intentionally” hitting Jabara and “maliciously” fleeing the scene. “There were no skid marks to indicate an attempt by [Majors] to the stop the vehicle prior to striking the victim” on what was “a clear and sunny day,” the prosecutor’s filing states.
When police found Majors in a nearby parking lot, he was drunk and urinating. He reportedly told police, “I was out driving my car, drunk. I’m always drunk and you guys never stop me.”
The brazen behavior he has been able to get away with in such circumstances, including in this case after allegedly trying to kill someone, stands in sharp contrast to the endemic police shootings of Black Americans often for doing nothing at all.
Influenced by pinkwashing?
Majors called the police on the Jabara family incessantly. One officer recalled being “dispatched to their location three times in one day as a result of [Majors] issuing complaints about the [Jabara] household.”
It was behavior reminiscent of Craig Stephen Hicks, an anti-religion bigot who obsessively harassed his Muslim neighbors – Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha – about parking spaces.
Hicks is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges for killing the couple, along with Yusor’s younger sister Razan Abu-Salha, in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last year.
Three hours before Majors rammed his car into Haifa Jabara, court documents show that Majors summoned the police to complain about a “vehicle parked in the street facing the wrong way.”
The officer who was dispatched that day testified that Majors characterized the Jabara family as “filthy Lebanese” who “throw gay people off the roof.”
After the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, began releasing shocking propaganda videos in late 2014 showing the group throwing people it accused of being gay off a roof, the right-wing echo chamber that typically incites hate against gays went to work portraying the savage acts of ISIS as representative of the supposedly inherent intolerance in Islam and Middle Eastern culture.
This rhetorical strategy – known as pinkwashing – is also used to portray Western countries and Israel as inherently more tolerant and thus to justify or erase violence against allegedly uncivilized Muslims.
ISIS has continued to produce similar videos every few months depicting acts of violence against gay people, likely in order to advance the group’s twisted objective of eliminating the “grayzone” – the co-existence that Muslims enjoy in Western countries – and sparking an all-out civilizational war.
To achieve this goal, ISIS has entered a de facto tacit alliance with right-wing and pro-Israel propagandists who gleefully spread such anti-Muslim defamation.
Around the same time ISIS debuted its first anti-gay snuff film, Majors married a man named Stephen Anthony Schmauss.
This raises the troubling possiblity that the pinkwashing narrative adopted by the American right in recent years resonated with Majors on a personal level.
On another occasion, Majors allegedly yelled “Fuck you Arabs, Fuck you bastards. I want to kill you all. I know where your daughter lives and will take care of her,” according to a motion filed by the district attorney in September 2015.
Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, emphasized that being Lebanese Christians did not shield the Jabara family from the Islamophobia that factored into the hatred espoused by Majors.
“It’s not just Muslims or even Arabs” who are being targeted by anti-Muslim bigotry, Ayoub told The Electronic Intifada. “It’s anyone who is perceived as Arab or Muslim. We have Hispanics who call our office reporting harassment for being perceived as Arab or Muslim.”
“A lot of people are going to say all we have to do is defeat Donald Trump,” he added. “But if he loses it’s not going to change for immigrant communities. These hate crimes didn’t start because of Donald Trump. They were happening before Trump and they’re going to continue after he’s gone. It’s indicative of a broken system.”
Months before Trump kicked off his presidential run, the FBI warned in an internal report that right-wing extremists, inspired by anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and disinformation funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by wealthy pro-Israel zealots, were beginning to plot attacks against Muslims.
And while the hate has certainly intensified in the Trump era, he’s hardly the only demagogue around, particularly in a right-leaning state like Oklahoma.
In June, State Representative Pat Ownbey republished an article on his Facebook page that called for a “final solution” against “radical Islam,” echoing the phrase used to describe Hitler’s genocide of Europe’s Jews.
Two days after the slaying of Jabara, the imam of a Queens, New York, mosque and his assistant were gunned down in the street just after they left afternoon prayers.
Oscar Morel, 35, has been charged with the murder of Imam Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, Thara Miah, 64. While police still say the motive is unclear, that attack only heightened fears that rising Islamophobia is increasingly turning lethal on America’s streets.
“I want to shed light and bring awareness to the negligence that occurred from the first moment the neighbor … this monster … called our family ‘Dirty Arabs,’ to the time he ran over my mother with his car, to the two protective order violations, and our constant vigilance to communicate and be proactive with the [district attorneys], to the fact that they let him out of jail after eight months,” Khalid Jabara’s sister Victoria wrote in a separate Facebook post.
“While one cannot explain irrationality and evil, one thing I can explain is that indifference and inaction were major factors leading to Khalid’s death,” his brother Rami wrote on Facebook.
“As an attorney, I have seen the system fail defendants, but it also seems to fail the victims just as much or perhaps more. I feel like my family lost, my community lost. My brother lost. We all lost. I feel like we did everything we possibly could do [to] advocate for and protect ourselves.”
People are using the hashtag #justice4Khalid to demand accountability.