Three young Muslim-Americans were killed yesterday evening in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by a gunman who had posted anti-religious messages on his Facebook. The victims’ names are: 19-year-old Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha; 21-year-old Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha; and 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat.
Barakat was a dental student at the University of North Carolina. Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha was Barakat’s wife, and was set to start dentistry school next academic year. Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha was the sister of Yusor. Barakat and Abu-Salha were married last December.
Chapel Hill Police have named 46-year-old Craig Hicks as a suspect. He has been charged with murder and is said to have killed them “execution style” with shots to the head. The police have released a statement saying its “preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.”
VICE News has more on Hicks:
The owner of [a Facebook page believed to belong to Hicks] frequently posted anti-religious messages. He is a member of groups including “Friends of Freedom From Religion Foundation,” and “Atheism on Youtube.” There are also multiple posts directly referring to Muslims, and a picture of a revolver on a weighing scales with the comment: “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds.”
VICE News could not independently verify that this page belonged to him.
The News & Observer based in Raleigh, North Carolina reports that the father of the Abu-Salha sisters believe the murder was a hate crime, and that Hicks had harassed Barakat and Abu-Salha in the past:
But the women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, said regardless of the precise trigger Tuesday night, Hicks’ underlying animosity toward Barakat and Abu-Salha was based on their religion and culture. Abu-Salha said police told him Hicks shot the three inside their apartment.
“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha said Wednesday morning. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”
Abu-Salha said his daughter who lived next door to Hicks wore a Muslim head scarf and told her family a week ago that she had “a hateful neighbor.”
“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” he said.
The case has rocked the Muslim-American community, who have taken to social media to mourn and vent their outrage at what they say is a lack of media attention to the case. Many Twitter uses have used the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter to bring attention to the killings, a nod to the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag that has come to symbolize the anti-police brutality movement.
Nihad Awad, the head of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in a statement that “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.”
How am I 2 feel comfortable in my identity as an American when my id as a Muslim puts my life in danger in my own home? #ChapelHillShooting
— Deanna ديانا (@deannaothman) February 11, 2015
If they were called John, Lisa & Margret, it would've been all over the media. #ChapelHillShooting
— الهولندية المندسة (@FatemaxMasreyax) February 11, 2015
Is the absence of "terrorism" in #ChapelHillShooting reports bc no government official raised it or bc media internalized its selective use?
— William Lafi Youmans (@wyoumans) February 11, 2015
Deah, Yusor, and Razan have returned to their Lord. To Him we belong and to Him is our return.
They have been murdered in cold blood and will undoubtedly as a result be resurrected with the best of people on the day of judgement and the day of true justice. This in fact makes them winners.
This page is intended to facilitate communication and will hopefully carry on their legacy of service, great character and joy for life.
Deah Barakat was a Syrian-American who was raising money to send dentists to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey. Here’s video of his appeal:
The Guardian reports that Barakat had recently gone to Palestine to do relief work. The Abu-Salhas are reportedly Palestinian-Americans.