#MuslimLivesMatter: Thousands honour US shooting victims, reject police dismissal of a hate crime

February 12, 2015
A memorial at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in remembrance of Deah Shaddy

Three Muslim students were shot dead in what appears to be a hate crime at the University of North Carolina on February 10. Democracy Now said the next day the victims were killed when a gunman opened fire at a residential complex in Chapel Hill.

The victims have been identified as 23-year-old Deah Barakat; his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Mohammad; and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. A suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Hicks had frequently posted anti-religious comments on his Facebook page and was a supporter of the group Atheists for Equality. On February 11, police said the killings resulted from a dispute over a parking space.

But the father of the women, Dr Mohammad Abu-Salha, described it as a hate crime. In an interview with the News & Observer he said: “It was execution style, a bullet in every head. 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.”

Dr Abu-Salha said his daughter had described Hicks as “a hateful neighbour” just days before the shootings. “Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look'.”

Thousands gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on February 11 to remember the three.

The killings have sparked an international outcry, with the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter spreading across social media. A community Facebook page was set up Wednesday in memory of the three victims, called "Our Three Winners."

In the video below, Democracy Now! is joined by Amira Ata, a longtime friend of Yusor, and Omid Safi, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center.

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