Chapel Hill deaths catalyze campus action

Muslim Student Association and Geneseo Social Justice Club held a vigil on Friday Feb. 13 to honor the memory of the three Muslim students who were killed near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Feb. 10. According to the Huffington Post, 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year old wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot at their apartment by 46-year-old neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks.

MSA president senior Nadia Abdulwahab said that approximately 25 people attended the campus vigil.

“I was really happy because a lot of the people I didn’t know,” she said. “I was surprised by the faces I saw … you don’t expect people to really come out to things like this if it doesn’t really directly affect them. If you’re not Muslim, you might not think ‘Oh, this means something to me.’”

In addition to the vigil, MSA and GSJC will host “Discussion on Chapel Hill Shootings and Islamophobia” on Friday Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. in Bailey Hall room 102. The event is set to feature political science and international relations professor Nayma Qayum and students who will share personal experiences about being Muslim in America. Following these speeches, the floor will be opened for discussion so students can learn from each other and share their opinions.

“I think the talk is important because people are arguing back and forth,” MSA member senior Ramsha Ansari said. “Some agree and some don’t agree [on whether this was a hate crime]. In my opinion, this was definitely a hate crime,” senior MSA member Ramsha Ansari said. “If it was not a white male who shot three Muslims, but rather a Muslim who shot three white males, the outcome in the media outlets and how much attention this incident would have gotten would––I can guarantee––would be so much more.”

Abdulwahab agreed, explaining that the media only began covering the shooting after people on social media reacted to it. Once the larger media groups began covering it, she expressed that they covered the incident in a biased way.

“When you hear a Muslim doing killings and stuff like that, the first thing you hear, ‘Oh it’s a Muslim, they’re a terrorist,’” she said. “But someone else who’s not Muslim or a minority will have people assume that they’re mentally ill or they haven’t had any [criminal] records in the past, so this isn’t a big deal.”

According to the Huffington Post, Hicks claimed he murdered the three over a disagreement about a parking space, not due to their religious affiliation.

“Don’t try and tell me a parking spot is justifying this act at all,” Ansari said. “If a Muslim person had killed three white males over a parking spot, you would hear, ‘Terrorism, all Muslims are like this.’”

“You don’t think people out there would still believe all those things because … even sometimes I still think, ‘Islamophobia, people still can’t be having this type of prejudice against Muslims’ but it’s still there,” Abdulwahab said. “This was kind of a wakeup call.”