Terror struck the campus of the University of North Carolina when three Muslim students were killed nearby on February 10. Suspect Craig Stephen Hicks (46) has been arrested and stands charged with three counts of first degree murder in Chapel Hill NC. The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina Ripley Rand claimed that the killings "are not part of a targeted campaign against Muslims," in a February 11 press conference.
Newspaper reports indicate that the three students were from the same family. They are identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat
– a 23-year-old student of dentistry - and wife Yusor
Mohammad (21), and her sister, Razan
was a volunteer who provided free dental care to Palestinian children. A Twitter account for Barakat
shows posts about sports and issues relating to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. He also appeared in a video
to solicit donations to assist victims of the current war between Islamic State terrorists and the governments of Iraq and Syria.
Suspect Hicks’ Facebook page showed a number of posts related to atheism, as well as of a firearm being weighed on a scale. A number of prominent atheists have since taken to social media to condemn the killings.
Police in Chapel Hill police said on February 11 that a dispute about parking spots in the Meadowmont neighborhood may have been the trigger for Hicks to shoot the trio.
However, the grieving father of the two women, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, labelled the attack a “hate crime.” Abu-Salha is a psychiatrist who has a practice in Clayton NC said that regardless of the inciting motivation, Hicks’ motivation was based on his victims’ religion and culture. “It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha said, according to the News-Observer. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”
Dr. Abu-Salha said his daughter – Hicks’ next-door neighbor – told her family a week ago that she had “a hateful neighbor.” He added, “Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” he said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reacted to the killings. CAIR National Director issued a statement saying, "Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case, ....Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the local community." The International Middle East Media Center website described Barakat as being a member of a prominent Palestinian family.
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