Triangle Muslims honor shooting victims as they gather for prayer
Posted February 13, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Area Muslims gathering for their traditional day of prayer Friday leaned on their faith to help them cope with the shooting deaths of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill this week.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were found dead Tuesday evening at the newlywed couple's home near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Police said the shootings appear to be the reault of a long-running dispute over parking spaces at the condominium complex where Hicks and the victims lived, but relatives of the victims have called for an investigation of their deaths as a hate crime.
The Islamic Center of Raleigh, where where Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters worshipped, held a special memorial for them between Maghrib, the sunset prayer, and Isha, the evening prayer.
Their families were there to receive condolences and hear fond memories shared by friends and loved ones.
Mohammed El Gamal, chairman of the Islamic Center's executive committee, said he attended Barakat's and Yusor Abu-Salha's wedding in December.
"It's a huge loss. Three people at the same time that way, their lives wasted that terrible way, it is something that is not easy," El Gamal said.
Crowds for Friday's call to prayer earlier in the day were larger than usual, he said. Some members of the mosque feel less safe now, but they are the minority, he said.
"All things considered, we are safe. I don't think we are afraid," he said. "We have strong faith in God and also in ourselves and in our law enforcement authorities and justice system. So, basically we don't really feel unsafe."
At Duke University, Imam Adeel Zeb said the Triangle is, by and large, a tolerant place, but he said some students are worried after the shootings. He said it will take time for Triangle Muslims to come to terms with the crime, and he asked for prayers and compassion.
"The Muslim community is going through a very difficult time nationally, and it's in a very emotional state," Zeb said. "So, offering support, help, comfort, visiting them, texting them, calling them, all those things are very much appreciated."
Both El Gamal and Zeb said the Muslim community needs to do more outreach and education to help people better understand who they are and what they believe.