Hate Crime Not Ruled Out in Muslim Students' Death

12 February, 2015

On Tuesday evening, a man shot and killed three Muslim students in the U.S. city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Many American Muslims said the students' deaths did not get widespread news coverage because of their Islamic religious beliefs.

Police officials arrested their neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks. Mr. Hicks is 46-year-old and he has been charged with first-degree murder. They said the victims were 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Abu-Salha and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Abu-Salha.

Mr. Barakat was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His wife planned on joining him at the school later this year. Her sister, Razan Abu-Salha was a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

About 2,000 people gathered Wednesday night on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pay tribute to the victims. The triple homicide surprised many in the university town. People who knew the three victims said they were young and happy. Some said news reports on the deaths were minimized because the victims were Muslims.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Hicks described himself as a "gun toting" atheist. Several news organizations also reported anti-religious Facebook posts from Mr. Hicks. Recently, one of his posts included a photo of a gun.

Police officials indicated that the incident was a dispute over parking and continued to investigate the possibility of a hate crime .

Mohammad Abu-Salha is the father of the two women killed. He said that Mr. Hicks came into contact with his daughter and her husband a few times carrying a gun. He believed the shootings to be a hate crime.

Ibrahim Hooper is a civil rights activist from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He had this to say: "if a Muslim had been the perpetrator in this, it would have made international headlines."

A campaign on Twitter is doing just that. Supporters are using the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter to bring attention to the shooting deaths of the three students. Many others write that "#Muslims only newsworthy behind the gun, not in front."