Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Photo credit: www.facebook.com/ourthreewinners
By Aatif Ali Bokhari
TMO Managing Editor
Three Muslims studying at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill were found gunned down in their off-campus condo in an attack that many are speculating is a hate crime.
The Guardian reported “Craig Stephen Hicks, who turned himself in, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths which took place on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“The victims are Deah Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. Barakat was a second-year dental student at the University of North Carolina, where his wife was planning to begin her dental studies in the fall. Her sister was a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Police responded to reports of gunshots at 5:11pm on Tuesday. All three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.”
A Facebook group called “Our Three Winners” in memory of the victims had more than 59,000 likes as of 4:15 PM EST on Wednesday.
Police surmised that the attack may have been carried out due to a dispute over a parking spot. Hicks and the victims were neighbors.
Hicks had left anti-religious notes criticizing Christianity, Mormonism and Islam on social media profiles.
“Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act. We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case,” Police Chief Chris Blue said.
Others were quicker to condemn what they saw as clear bias fueling the killings. #Muslimlivesmatter began trending not long after news broke of the killings.
3 Muslim college students killed in cold blood. No media attention or outrage #MuslimLivesMatter #ChapelHillShooting,” @lunarnomad tweeted. “I say #MuslimLivesMatter because they should. But the sad fact is, to most of the world, they don’t. How many Iraq war victims can YOU name?” @SaladinAhmed said in a tweet.
““MPAC expresses its deepest condolences to the families in this tragic time as they grieve the loss of these three young people,” said Salam Al-Marayati, President of Muslim Public Affairs Council. “We also express our condolences to the American Muslim community and urge them to be vigilant at this time as the facts of this case are made public.”
“Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the local community.”