MU Vigil held to honor Chapel Hill shooting victims

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Humera Lodhi

Though it was night, candlelight illuminated the darkness of Speaker’s Circle, spelling three letters: R, D, Y. Razan, Deah, and Yosur; three young Muslim students killed late Tuesday evening at their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deah Barakat, age 23 and Yosur Abu Salha, age 21, were newlyweds and Razan Abu-Salha, age 19 was the bride’s younger sister . All three were active volunteers in their North Carolina community, and Barakat had started a program to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey.
News of their murders spread quickly throughout the world and across social media Tuesday night though mainstream news sources did not cover the incident until several hours later. The perpetrator: Craig Hicks, their 46 year old neighbor. Within a few short hours, the police determined initial investigations had pointed the killings were motivated by an ongoing parking dispute. However, the family of the slain felt this was a hate crime, and that the three had been murdered because they were practicing Muslims. They requested the crime be investigated as such and police agreed they were not dismissing the possibility. Many, like MU freshman Yasmin Younis agree with the family, and feel angered and saddened by the death of the three.
“I heard about it yesterday morning. People were posting about it on Facebook, Twitter, on a lot of different social media. I starting looking into it, and I was just really shocked,” Younis said. “This incident really broke my heart. I just thought, not another one, or actually not another three lives, that were so kind and so giving. It was just such an inhumane act”
In the days following, several campuses across the country held vigils to mourn the loss of these three students. After hearing about the shooting Wednesday morning, MU freshman and RBHS alumnus Inas Syed organized one such vigil. Over 100 hundred people gathered in Speaker’s Circle on MU campus last night to remember and honor Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters.
“I was really, really upset, and I was also really motivated to do something about. It hit me really hard, because one of the girls was actually 19 years old, which is the same age as me. She was just starting out her university, and she wore hijab like me, and I felt really connected to her. I just wanted to honor her life, and her sister’s life, and her brother in law’s life,” Syed said. “ And I also really wanted to raise awareness about it, because the media didn’t care about it. The media didn’t cover it until 17 hours later, so I just wanted to reach out the MU campus and do something about it.”
Many who attended the vigil believed the shooting was a hate crime, and throughout the night, the speaker’s spoke of staying united, and working together to fight injustice. Younis, who spoke at the vigil, talked about the fear she faced as a Muslim American saying it easily could have been her, her friend, or her mother in place of the victims. The vigil, Younis said, was a way to bring solidarity and bring people of all different backgrounds together.
“Coming to this vigil and just seeing the turnout and the support, was really heartwarming, because there are times where I definitely feel unwelcome, unsafe and ostracized just for my background,” Younis said. “Seeing all these people out here, not just Muslims, but all these people out here to support each other, really made me feel like a part of a community that I’ve been longing for, for so long.”
By Humera Lodhi