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
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.
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.
(Ray Hanania is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)