Chapel Hill killings reverberate around the world

Slate: Deah Barakat, a 23-year-old student at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry, dreamed of being part of a “unified and structured community” in the United States and having “a voice in our society.”

Barakat’s life was cut short on Tuesday after he, his wife Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Raza Abu-Salha, 19, were shot in the head in a private condominium complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

While police have said that they believe the shooting was over a parking dispute with alleged shooter Craig Stephen Hicks, they are also investigating the possibility that the three were targeted for their Muslim faith. To some in the Muslim American community, this seems like a frighteningly likely scenario.

“I am constantly worried about my family who are thousands of miles away from me on the other end of the country. [I’ve] been having trouble focusing on work all day,” wrote Adam Akkad, a prominent activist in Muslim Twitter circles, on the “Radical Muslims” Facebook group. The group is a community of Muslims dedicated to discussions of intersectional feminism, LGBTQ issues, race, and other issues through the lens of Islamic philosophy and scripture, and talking with some of its members offers some insight into how the Muslim American community is viewing the attack.

The idea that the motive could have been a mere parking dispute when the father of two of the victims said that the alleged shooter had previously accosted one of his daughters over what she described as “what we are and how we look” struck Akkad as dubious to the point that it frustrated him.

“If one more person says ‘parking dispute’ I will snap,” he wrote.

Akkad is not alone. [Continue reading…]

The News & Observer reports: The news spread fast on social media, where many didn’t believe the killer’s motive could be explained by an argument about parking. Relatives were quick to call the slayings of three American Muslims a hate crime. “I mean, who would kill somebody over a parking spot?” said Abdel Kader Barakat, a cousin of Deah Barakat.

The women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, said regardless of what prompted the shooting Tuesday night, Hicks’ underlying animosity toward Barakat and Abu-Salha was based on their religion and culture.

“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha said. “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.”

Abu-Salha said his daughter, who lived next door to Hicks, wore a Muslim head scarf and told her family a week ago that she had “a hateful neighbor.”

“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’ ” he said.

Barakat’s family held a press conference in Raleigh on Wednesday, urging people to celebrate the memories of the students. They also said authorities should treat the deaths as a hate crime.

“It all goes back to justice,” said Deah’s father, Namee Barakat. “We need justice.” [Continue reading…]

In a video which Deah Barakat posted on YouTube last September, he made an appeal for support for “Project: Refugee Smiles”

Click here to find out more about how to support the project.

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