Three muslim students shot in Chapel Hill – Isa Van der Drift, United States of America

On February 10th, three Muslim students were shot in their homes at the Finely Forest Condominiums by Craig Stephen Hicks in Chapel Hill, North Carolina over an alleged parking dispute, which some believe to be a hate crime.

The shooting has rocked the surrounding area to its core. It has unsettled many people as the area is known for being one of the most liberal, open and tolerant in the state.

The three students’ names were Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. All three attended universities in the area. Barakat attended the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, planned on attending the school in the fall of this year. Razan Abu-Salha was a student at the nearby North Carolina State University.

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Barakat and Abu-Salha were deeply involved in a dental initiative for the homeless in downtown Durham, North Carolina, as well as in refugee camps in Syria.

All three major universities in the area held memorial services and candle-light vigils for the slain students.

Many news agencies are still covering the shooting, although public press around it has diminished significantly from the initial days following the incident.

The shooter Craig Stephen Hicks invaded Barakat and Abu-Salha’s home at approximately 5:15 PM on Tuesday. The police was called as a result of the gunshots and all three were found bleeding and deceased.

Hicks turned himself in in Pittsboro later that night and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

He was indicted by a Durham grand jury for his crime along with one count of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling. While local police are investigating the shooting, it has gained much national attention and both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United

States Department of Justice have launched their own investigations into Hicks’ motives.

Hicks was an “anti-theist”, or someone who is against organized religion in all forms. He was noted to have complained about Christians and Muslims on his Facebook account, and many believe that his hatred of organized religions could have justified this crime. He was also a staunch gun-rights advocate and owned 13 guns.

This shooting highlighted the prevalence of Islamophobia in our society and was a brutal reminder of how harmful such generalizations and hatred can be. It accentuates the struggle of many Muslim-Americans in their own county and should serve to improve race relations in the United States.

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Chapel Hill is regarded as one of the most liberal communities in the area. This raises the fact that it is possible for such hatred to be deeply ingrained in society, despite the openness of the majority of those living there. It also highlights the need for more racial and religious tolerance in all communities in America.

The court system in the USA has a history of diminishing crimes against people of colour and minorities. It is therefore imperative for this trial to accurately and justly present and convict Hicks for three counts of first-degree murder.

This will not only give justice to the three lives lost, but will also restore some faith in the judicial system that many believe is corrupt and does not represent all people equally.

There is a lack of knowledge surrounding Hicks’ motive for killing three young, innocent students. What is important however, is to recognize the atrocity of the situation without the religious aspect and recognize the disastrous implications of widespread violence, whether related to race or not.

I believe that it is necessary to open the discussion on racial and hate crimes in the United States, and consequentially, open dialogue on gun regulation. While the two issues are not necessarily connected and interdependent, one way to decrease the number of hate crimes is to not make guns so easily available to the public.

The most important issue, however, is Islamophobia in the United States. It must be addressed immediately to prevent such horrifying episodes from recurring.

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