Three Muslim Students Killed in North Carolina

Chapel Hill, NC: A long-running parking dispute between neighbors motivated a man to kill a woman, her newlywed husband and her sister at a quiet condominium complex near the University of North Carolina, police said Wednesday.
A Muslim advocacy organization asked authorities to address speculation — much of it on social media — about possible religious bias in Tuesday's shooting of the three Muslims.
"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," Chapel Hill police Chief Chris Blue said in an email.
The couple had graduated from North Carolina State, and one was studying to be a dentist at UNC. The sister was an undergraduate at NC State. UNC's chancellor called it a loss for both campus communities, and the school planned a vigil Wednesday evening.
"This was like the power couple of our community," said Ali Sajjad, president of NC State's Muslim Student Association.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, both of Chapel Hill, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh.
Hicks appeared briefly in court Wednesday. He is being held without bond and will be appointed a public defender. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for March 4.
Police said Hicks turned himself in and was cooperating. They said the preliminary investigation showed the parking dispute was the motive.
But outrage spread among some American Muslims who viewed the homicides as an outgrowth of anti-Muslim opinions. Many posted social media updates with the hashtags #MuslimLivesMatter and #CallItTerrorism.
"Based on the brutal nature of this crime ... 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," Nihad Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement.
Durham district attorney Roger Echols said he couldn't discuss motive or whether Hicks could be charged with a hate crime.
US Attorney Ripley Rand said his office was monitoring the investigation but that it was not yet a federal investigation. He said the shooting appeared to be "an isolated incident."
Gerod King of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that agents were in touch with the US attorney's office and that investigators hadn't ruled out a hate crime.
At UNC, Barakat was a second-year dental student. Mohammad was scheduled to begin dental studies in the fall. Both graduated from North Carolina State University, spokesman Mick Kulikowski said. Barakat received a business administration degree in 2013. Mohammad received a biological sciences degree in December. Abu-Salha was a sophomore design major, Kulikowski said.
Muneeb Mustafa, 23, of Cary, said he attended the same Raleigh mosque as Barakat. "He was a completely genuine guy. Loving, caring, friendly, smart," Mustafa said. "He was an ideal human being. He was a role model."
Mustafa said they last saw each other about a month ago, playing in a basketball tournament staged by the Muslim Student Association at UNC, Mustafa said. Barakat, his wife of less than two months and his sister were Muslim, Mustafa said.
Barakat's family was from Syria, and he raised money to help refugees, Mustafa said. Mohammad traveled to Turkey last summer to help treat refugees' dental problems, Mustafa said.
The neighborhood where the victims were found — about three miles east of campus — consists mostly of apartments and condominiums rented by students. Residents said they'd never before seen police or had crime problems.
"It's a very quiet community," resident Bethany Boring told WRAL-TV. "It's a lot of graduate and professional students. You know, professional families."
Shadi Wehbe, a UNC graduate who has lived in the complex since 1999, said that two weeks ago, a woman came to his door about 10 p.m. and politely asked him to move his car. Some parking spots are assigned, and others are open. Wehbe said parking had never been a problem and no one had asked him to move his car before, but he realized he was in the wrong spot and moved his car one place over.
Neighbor Samantha Maness said suspect Hicks "complained about noise and parking. So I wasn't extremely surprised" when he was charged.
"Anytime that I saw him or saw interaction with him or friends or anyone in the parking lot or myself, he was angry," she said. "He was very angry, anytime I saw him." - AP


Senseless Killing of Muslim Students Mourned

The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California mourns the senseless killing of three young Muslim students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill yesterday, says a message. It adds:  "Hate has no boundaries and ignorance no borders" said Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Shura Council; in response to the tragic killings of Deah Barakat (23); his wife,Yusor Abu-Salha (21) and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha (19). We extend our most sincere condolences and prayers to the families of the victims and ask Allah (swt) to shower them with His mercy.
The Shura Council calls upon all Masajid to hold special prayers for the victims and asks Khateebs to speak on the topic of hate and bigotry vs. love and compassion. The Shura Council is working closely with MSA-West to ensure the safety and security of Muslim students on all campuses.
We call upon law enforcement to investigate these tragic killings and hold those responsible to the fullest extent of the law, the message ended.
CAIR: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, Wednesday called on law enforcement authorities to address speculation about a possible bias motive for the killing of three young Muslims who were shot in the head yesterday in Chapel Hill, NC.
The alleged killer, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested and charged three counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of shooting Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.Both female victims are pictured online wearing Islamic head scarves (hijab). No motive for the shootings has been released.
On Facebook, Hicks describes himself as an "anti-theist" and has posted condemnations of all religions. One post, a picture from United Atheists of America, asks "why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each others' influence when they agree about so many ideological issues."
Reports of the incident led to widespread speculation on social media that the killings were motivated by anti-Muslim bias.
"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."
MPAC: The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is shocked and saddened by the cold-blooded killings of three young American Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The three young people were shot execution style by a self-proclaimed Atheist while they were in their home.
“MPAC expresses its deepest condolences to the families in this tragic time as they grieve the loss of these three young people," Salam Al-Marayati President of MPAC.  "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."
MPAC urges the FBI and the Department of Justice to open an immediate investigation and consider this a terrorist attack if the motives of the shooter are confirmed based on his previous social media posts. There is an intentional effort on the case of federal authorities to understand the issue of violent extremism and this case illustrates that violent extremism is not the product of only one community. 
MPAC calls on all law enforcement agencies both federal and local police departments to increase security and coordination with houses of worship and local institutions. MPAC will work with law enforcement to help bolster security.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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