Muslim students killed in Chapel Hill

By: Richard Meyer ~Copy Editor~

The FBI is launching an investigation after three Muslim students were murdered in Chapel Hill, N.C. Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder for shooting his neighbors on Feb. 10.

The victims have been identified as Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19. The three were found dead when police responded to reports of gunfire in the condo complex where they lived.

The police have cited an “ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” as the motive for the attack, but the families of the victims believe it was a hate-crime due to their religion.

“We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated, and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said. Hicks’ attorney has spoken out against the belief saying that a “mundane” neighborhood parking issue has escalated into international religious debate.

The FBI launched its preliminary investigation of the murder after concerns that federal laws were violated in regards to the case. The investigation has included going through Hicks’ social media pages, where there were many posts stating his disproval of religion. Hicks described religion as “the world’s most successful pyramid scheme.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is made up of 57 Muslim countries, also offered their assessment, saying the crime reflected “rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobic acts” in the United States.

President Obama issued a statement, offering his support for the families of the victims.

“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like or how they worship. Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones,” he said.