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UNC, NCSU mark anniversary of Muslim students' deaths

Posted February 10

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— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University held ceremonies Wednesday to mark one year since the shooting deaths of three Muslim students.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were fatally shot Feb. 10, 2015, at the couple's condominium in Chapel Hill. A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with murder in their deaths and could face the death penalty if convicted.

"It has been really hard this past year, it goes without saying. Hearing from you all is important to our family," Barakat's sister, Suzanne Barakat, told people gathered at the UNC School of Dentistry.

Deah Barakat was a second-year dental student, and his wife was about to start her first year of studies there.

Dean Jane Weintraub said the UNC dental school has won the 2016 William J. Gies Award for Outstanding Vision by an Academic Dental Institution in recognition of "Deah Day," a community service day last fall among the dental students. White dental coats bearing Barakat's and Yusor Abu-Salha's names will be displayed along with the award in the school atrium, Weintraub said.

"It's my hope we will continue to heal as a community and as a family," she said.

At the time of their deaths, the couple was working on a project to provide dental care for Syrian refugees. Relatives, friends and classmates have continued that work in their honor.

"We've laughed with each other, we've cried with each other and we've worked together to make sure we keep Deah's, Yusor's and Razan's legacy alive," friend Kaushal Ghandi said. "I want to ask you all to remember the lives of these three individuals and follow their example of kindness and service."

At N.C. State, where Razan Abu-Salha was an undergraduate student, friends gathered Wednesday evening for a candle-lighting and prayer service to honor her and her sister and brother-in-law.

The girls' father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, said at the dental school ceremony that he hopes the tragedy will bring more understanding toward Muslim-Americans.

"We began to see the outpour of love and support of our community and faiths in our community," Abu-Salha said.

The families maintain that the shootings were a hate crime, but Chapel Hill police have said an ongoing dispute between Hicks and his neighbors prompted the shootings.

A third event Wednesday was held at Light House, a community center the families have created at 202 N. Tarboro St. in Raleigh at a home owned by Deah Barakat. The center holds a small-business incubator, provides after-school programs and counters what they call growing Islamophobia.

An interfaith food drive in honor of the slain students continues through Feb. 20 at the Islamic Center of Raleigh.


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  • Shandy Scott Feb 11, 2016
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    I think it is wonderful to honor these three killed over a disputed parking space. I however wish we gave the same attention to American Christians killed by Muslims because of their faith.

  • John Gardner Feb 11, 2016
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    My feelings exactly. While I do feel sorry for the family of these three, what makes their murders any different than the dozens of others murdered last year??

  • Janet Ghumri Feb 10, 2016
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    I commend these families for their strength and wisdom during what has to be the most difficult year of their lives. The dedication and grace that they have shown amazes me.
    To continue to give to the community and stand strong is really a testament to the goodness of these people who are refusing to continue to be victims. The young lives that were stolen haven't been forgotten. They continue to bless us all. Imagine what those beautiful young people could have accomplished, with role models like this! Blessings to them all. They are still in my prayers

  • Anne Havisham Feb 10, 2016
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    These three young people were stolen from us; their goodness is gone far too soon. It is my hope that their families and friends are comforted by the compassion they are creating in memory of Our Three Winners for those in need.

  • Roland Kandalbar Feb 10, 2016
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    If three high-achieving and promising and civic-minded young college students, white and Christian, were all mindlessly killed by a deranged individual, yeah we'd be hearing about it on the anniversary of the sad event. Don't delude yourself with negative mojo.

  • Ron Coleman Feb 10, 2016
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    It is sad that this happened to them for such a stupid reason but would this be in the headlines today if they were white Christians? There is such a double standard taking place in this country and the media is feeding it. If we are to get along as Americans and part of the human race, not black not white not muslim not christian and so on the double standards have to stop.