Three Muslim Arab students massacred at Chapel Hill

Three Muslim Arab students massacred at Chapel Hill
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Three Arab Muslim students living in a region of growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim anger were found slaughtered Tuesday night in Chapel Hill by a White man whose motives have not yet been determined by police. But the community is wondering whether or not this is another example of a racist hate crime by mainstream White America.

By Ray Hanania

Deah Shaddy Barakat and his wife Yusor at a recent UNC Basketball game. (From Barakat's Facebook Page)

Deah Shaddy Barakat (right) and his wife Yusor at a recent UNC Basketball game. (From Barakat’s Facebook Page)

Three students identified as being Arab and Muslim at the University of North Carolina were found dead Tuesday night after students and neighbors living near the Finley Forest condominium complex in Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill reported gun fire around 5 pm.

The three student victims were identified by Chapel Hill Police, after notifying relatives of the victims, as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, of Chapel Hill, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha Barakat, 21, of Chapel Hill, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh. All three were pronounced dead at the scene, each reportedly shot execution style in the head.

Early reports noted two of the victims were married. Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha Barakat were  newly weds just married late last year. Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha is Yusor’s sister.

The young husband, his wife and her sister were found slaughtered in a brutally bloody scene in the heart of the UNC-Duke University college area.

The community is wondering if the massacre is the result of a hate crime by a White American with anti-Muslim feelings. Tensions have increased significantly in the past weeks following the reported massacre of the newspaper staff at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. The students live in a region served by two universities with large Arab and Muslim populations, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University at Durham. Both universities are within a few miles of each other.

In recent weeks and months, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab Christian leaders, such as evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, have loudly complained about the growing influence of Muslims in the region of Raleigh-Durham.

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Deah Barakat, Yusor and (from Barakat's Facebook Page.)

Unknown individual, Deah Barakat, Yusor and Razan(from Barakat’s Facebook Page.)

Only last month, non-Arab members of the community began complaining when Duke University allowed Muslim students to conduct a “call to prayer” from Duke’s fame chapel. Evangelist Franklin Graham denounced Duke University’s decision as a disgrace and urged Christian Americans to boycott the University and withhold money and donations to the Methodist founded university. Graham’s protest forced the university to reverse itself and cancel the “Call to Prayer.”

Friends on Twitter and Facebook said that the three students had raised more than $15,000 to fund a trip to Turkey where they planned to help Syrian refugees victimized by the ongoing conflict there.

Police quickly identified a suspect in the mass murder as being Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, a White Christian student who turned himself into the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in Pittsboro, which is southwest of Chapel Hill. Hicks has been charged with 3 counts of first degree murder. He is being described as an “atheist” who “hates all religions” but most especially Islam and Muslims. Others say he was a religious fanatic who hates Muslims and was angered by Islamic activism in the UNC-Duke region.

Chapel Hill Police issued this press release at 7 pm on Tuesday night following the discovery of the grisly killings:

Chapel Hill Police Investigate Multiple Homicide on Summerwalk Circle

Post Date:02/10/2015 7:00 PM

At 5:11 PM today, Chapel Hill Police Officers responded to a report of gunshots in the area of Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill.  When officers arrived, they located three subjects who had been shot.  All three subjects were pronounced dead at the scene.  The names are not being released pending notification of next of kin.

The Chapel Hill Police Department is questioning a person of interest in the crime and has reason to believe that there is no ongoing threat to the public.

The investigation is ongoing and further information may be released when it becomes available.

Friends posted expressions of shock at the news.

Two brothers who knew the three victims wrote on facebook:

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart, that we must relay the news of our Dear Brother Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, were found shot and killed execution style, in their home earlier today. Young Muslim College kids. They were gracious host to us on our trip to North Carolina and made us feel at home. It was the only speaking engagement on our trip, we didn’t wear a suit and tie. They werebeautiful people not just in appearance but in deeds. Our Brother Deah’s last FaceBook Post was of him feeding the homeless. Alhamdulillah. In Shaa Allah justice will be served. Please make duaa for them and their families. May Allah grant them Jannahtul Firdaus and may they be among the 70,000 who enter Jannah without reckoning. Ameen.”

As a Syrian-American, Barakat was a doctoral student at the UNC’s School of Dentistry.

After Duke University announced on Jan. 15, 2015 that Muslims would be able to recite their traditional call to prayer every Friday at 1 pm, residents and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim students began attacking the practice on social media. Rightwing media have been fueling the hatred with claims of “sharia law” (Islamic legal system) and inciting fears of “Muslim terrorism.”

The “call to prayer” is no different than when Christian Churches ring their church bells every Sunday usually at 10 am to note the call to Christian prayer and Duke University officials said that they did not believe the new practice for Muslims would create inconveniences to the student body.

The “call to prayer” is described as an “adhan” or “azan” chant in Arabic. It is usually performed in Muslim countries around the world and corresponds to prayer times five times each day. Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of notorious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim preacher Billy Graham, has denounced Duke University’s decision to allow the Muslim prayer call. Graham called the decision “a slap at the Christian faith.” His protests forced the universit to reverse its decision.

Franklin Graham slandering Muslims and falsely claiming that “Allah” is not the same God of the Christian Bible. Click here if video does not display. (Allah is merely an Arab Word that means “God” in Arabic and is used by the original Christians of the Middle East and in Bethlehem where Jesus was born.)

Graham’s Facebook page is filled with anti-Muslim rants and invective. On his Twitter Page, Graham frequently blames Islam for rising anti-Semitism, which he denounces. Graham recently Tweeted: “Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe—largely from the influx of Muslim immigrants importing their hatred of Jews and Christians.” Followed by “Anti-Semitism is poison–a cancer–to all freedom-loving people & should be stopped. It’s time we wake up & realize the dangers of Islam.”

Rather than denouncing anti-Semitism as a sin, Graham has chosen to use it in his war against Islam and Muslims, fueling the growing hatred in America and especially in the Raleigh-Durham community where the slaughter of the three Arab Muslim students occurred Tuesday night.

Barakat and his wife and sister-in-law were described as being concerned not only about the plight of Syrian refugees, but also of the homeless and poor and needy people, average Americans, who lived on the streets on Raleigh-Durham area. Recently, Barakat and his wife and sister-in-law and other Arab and Muslim volunteers, provided food drinks and clothing to 75 homeless people in downtown Durham North Carolina.

Here is a photo of the event that the three slaughtered Arab and Muslim students participated in. It was Barakat’s final post on Facebook January 29, 2015.

Deah Barakat at event to help feed 75 poor homeless people in Durham, North Carolina on Jan 29.

Deah Shaddy Barakat at event to help feed 75 homeless individuals in Downtown Durham, North Carolina on Jan 29.

(Ray Hanania is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News. He can be reached at

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Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and for, and

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is

Email him at:

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com
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  • BC Tiger

    The reason there were 1000s at the vigil the next day and 5000+ at the funeral of these wonderful folks is because Muslims are welcome in the local area. Ask them! That’s why they move here, and it’s why Duke was trying to have a public Muslim call to prayer. How many US universities try to do that? It is incredibly unfortunate that Duke cancelled that plan, but please speak to the local Imams, etc, about the area. We’d hate for other Muslims to think it’s a bad area for them without hearing the views of the Muslims who live here!

  • OldRogue

    “Mainstream White America?” Oh, please. Mainstream white Americans – or of any color, come to that – don’t kill others for ANY reason. Mainstream Americans usually don’t even own guns. We are actually, just like you; we love our families, work hard, and wish to prosper. Oh, and we don’t hate Arabs. Nor do we hate Muslims.

    For obvious reasons, many of us became curious about Islam over the last dozen years or so, and found it’s teachings to be of eternal beauty. Books about Arabs / Islam / Mohammed have been hot items in bookstores for at least a decade. Mainstream white Americans are mourning the loss of these beautiful young people. We are not all gun-totting rednecks; we are not even a reflection of our foreign policy. The most American thing I can say about ‘mainstream white Americans,’ is that we believe in “live, and let live.”

    But here you are, painting Americans with one broad paintbrush, in the exact same way that American redneck extremists (and Fox News) would characterize Arab Muslims. I urge you to stop writing in such a manner. It clarifies nothing, but merely adds to the stress between our peoples.

    • Mary Martinez

      Thank you! This is an unfair but emotional stereotyping of we Americans, that I can understand but its not true. I am 45 yrs old, hispanic, female and I have been witness to the changing dynamic in regards to religious tolerance. I can say as a resident of California that there is WAY more tolerance for non-christians than christians. There is less hatred shown to anyone who isn’t what would be considered mainstream and/or christian. As a christian (catholic) in america I am exposed to much more intolerance than my non-christian friends and colleagues. If you want to know what the real burning issue is for americans its illegal immigration and socialized medical care-really-that is whats keeping most average americans up at night! A majority of us do not own a firearm but I will say that in certain areas of the country it is culturally accepted that people (especially property/business owners) should own a firearm. Sadly accidental shootings and domestic violence involving gun owners makes the news but it is not as pervasive as some would believe. There are some anti religious groups here and they have started to gain traction due to social media but these groups do not represent all americans and a majority of persons of faith support and respect other communities of faith. Sadly, anti religious groups would like to limit the freedoms of ALL religious groups to publicly express their faith while at the same time wanting unlimited freedom to condemn religious observers. However, this is only a small subset of persons and not indicative of the entire populace of the country. American is still one of the freest and openly welcoming countries on earth. Most americans want to live peacefully, be successful, support the constitutional freedoms that we’ve been endowed with and as a rule don’t live lives dedicated to infringing on the rights of others or taking lethal action against those with whom they disagree. This is one evil, fanatical person who decided to vent his rage and frustration against 3 innocent persons and he will have to answer to justice for what he’s done! All decent americans will be relieved when justice is handed down and we have hate crime laws to make sure justice will be delivered against this cold blooded killer. We are not this man and this man, this racist-is not the face of america. When you look at this man you are not looking at an american or america.
      Mary Martinez