By Ray Hanania
Chapel Hill police have identified the alleged killer of three Muslim Arab students as Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of 270 Summerwalk Circle. According to police, Hicks was involved in a “dispute” over a parking place at the condominium parking lot with the victims.
Hicks is currently being held without bond, and many anti-Muslim activists have been quick to argue that Hicks is not a Christian and in fact is an “atheist.” But many Muslims and American Arabs are wondering if increased anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric by local and national figures over the past two months may have pushed Hicks to allegedly commit the slaughter.
The three victims are Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha Barakat, 21, and Yusor’s sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Deah and Yusor had been married only six weeks. All three were shot in the head, execution style, according to preliminary reports, in the Barakat’s condominium, and were pronounced dead at the scene. The killing occurred at around 5 pm EST
“He can’t be denounced as a White Christian because he is an atheist,” one angry anti-Muslim writer posted ion social media in response to the story that broke last night. “Calling his a White Christian is ridiculous and only shows your bias.”
But Hicks is White and he was raised Christian. And despite his alleged claims that he doesn’t believe in God or that he is an “atheist,” Hicks was raised a Christian and was accepted as a part of the Christian American community.
In recent weeks, Christian activists have targeted the Muslim Arab community in and around the Raleigh-Durham and the two universities including Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill over a request to allow a “Call to Prayer” for Muslims at Duke University’s famous Chapel. Duke had approved the request Jan. 15, 2015.
Evangelist Franklin Graham has led the charge denouncing the proposal which would have allowed Muslims to conduct a 3 minute call to prayer from the Duke Chapel tower every Friday at 1 pm. But vicious anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric by Graham and others pressured Duke University officials to reverse their decision.
Aggravating the situation is a rise in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feelings over the massacre of editorial workers at the Paris-based satire magazine Charlie Hebdo January 7, 2015.
“When anyone who claims that they are Muslim commits an act of violence of any kind against anyone, every Muslim is responsible and every Muslim is guilty and it doesn’t even matter if you are a Muslim or a Christian Arab. They blame everyone and they blame the religion,” one writer on Facebook wrote. “But when a Christian commits an act of violence, it’s brushed off as the actions of an individual, a crazy person, an atheist who has nothing to do with Christianity or being White. The hypocrisy and the racism is obvious and apparent to everyone.”
Here is the initial news report on the murders including video of Franklin Graham denouncing Muslims at Duke University and around UNC: Click here to read story and view video.
Here is the official statement from the police:
UPDATE – Shooting Investigation on Summerwalk Circle
At 5:11 PM yesterday, 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 Chapel Hill Police Department has arrested Craig Stephen Hicks, 46 years of age, of 270 Summerwalk Circle, Chapel Hill. Mr. Hicks has been charged with 3 counts of 1st Degree Murder for the murders of;
- Deah Shaddy Barakat 23 years of age of Chapel Hill,
- Yusor Mohammad 21 years of age of Chapel Hill, and
- Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha 19 years of age of Raleigh.
Mr. Hicks is currently being held, without bond, in the Durham County Jail.
Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking. Hicks is cooperating with investigators and more information may be released at a later time.
“Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act. 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. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly,” said Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Abed Ayoub the President of United Muslim Relief, issued the following press release:
UMR Mourns Loss of Dedicated Volunteers
Three long time UMR volunteers, including a current officer lost their lives in a tragic triple homicide in Chapel Hill, NC last night. We ask everyone to keep Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19 in their prayers.
Deah and Yusor were part of the founding team of UMR’s community chapter in North Carolina Triangle area. Deah was also an active member of UMR’s dental relief team, taking part in a dental relief mission to Palestine that treated children with special needs. Razan was a current officer for UMR triangle where she organized monthly feedings for the homeless in downtown Raleigh.
As we mourn their tragic loss, we are also inspired to see how much these young people accomplished in their short lives. In an increasingly individualistic world, their lives stand as a shining example to young people all over the world. Deah, Yusor and Razan showed us the importance of serving others. UMR will work hard to honor their legacy.
Deah was working with one of our partner organizations on a dental relief mission to help Syrian refugees in Turkey. You can donate to that mission by clicking here.
United Muslim Relief
Deah Barakat was one of the organizers of the fundraiser to help Syrian refugees in Turkey. The group has raised more than $51,000. Barakat also helped organize an effort to feed more than 75 homeless people in downtown Durham, North Carolina.