Despite freezing temperatures Friday night, approximately 85 students stood outside the Student Union to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of the three Muslim North Carolina students who were murdered last week.
The crowd said prayers to commemorate Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, who were shot to death in their Chapel Hill, North Carolina home on Feb. 10. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized the vigil.
“Although we have e-board members and members of the club who [represent] a diverse culture of Muslims as members, it was only right to pay our respects to the friends and families of the Barakat and Abu-Salha families in an Islamic sort of matter,” said Manar Kustiro, a sophomore health and human services major and president of SJP.
Barakat, 23, Mohammad, 21, and Abu-Salha, 19, were allegedly killed by their neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks.
Hicks, 46, a paralegal student at Durham Technical Community College, turned himself over to police the night of the shooting. He is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
The vigil began with a few opening remarks from Kustiro.
“Innocent people are dying in other parts of the world unknowingly. The least we can do is spread awareness and educate ourselves and others about these tragedies,” Kustiro said. “Let’s not fight ignorance with ignorance.”
Hadeal Attal, a junior psychology major and SJP’s public coordinator, also addressed the crowd. Attal said the purpose of the vigil is to not only mourn the departed, but to also celebrate their lives.
“We mourn and we celebrate their lives, not because we know them. I don’t know them personally but I am them, we are them,” Attal said. “Craig Hicks didn’t just take three lives, he took a son, two daughters, a husband, a wife, a brother and two sisters.”
Attal said that these kinds of killings are not just a problem for Arab and Muslim communities, but for every community around the world and the nation as a whole.
There is debate over whether or not the murders were a hate crime. Chapel Hill Police said its preliminary investigation indicates the crime was motivated by a dispute over parking. The FBI has also begun its own investigation.
Attal thanked students who attended the vigil for standing outside in the cold to remember the lives of the departed.
Farhan Hussain, a senior psychology major, recited a prayer from the first chapter of the Quran, which features seven ayat, or verses, that speak about God’s guidance and mercy.
“We are hurt, we lost one of our own, when we’re hurt, we feel it,” Hussain said. “There’s no limit to his mercy. We pray for the families, we pray for the three who were taken away. Guide us all to these dark times.”
Akram Shibly, a senior media study major, said that the vigil reflected more than just Muslim ideals.
“While we say a prayer for our Muslim brothers and sisters, we should also say a prayer for our non-Muslim brothers and non-Muslim sisters. It’s not so easy to stand with an oppressed minority in this country,” Shilby said. “We’re here not just for Muslims, but for justice, peace and understanding.”
Samar Adhami, a junior biological sciences major, and Farah Sahibzada, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, said it was important to have everyone come together for a common cause. Adhami also said people should know Islam is not violent and that the root word of Islam is peace.
“Violence has no religion, anyone from any religion can be affected,” Sahibzada said.