A North Carolina man turned himself in to police Tuesday night for the shooting deaths of a young Muslim family in a student housing complex near the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were all shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene late on Tuesday afternoon. Mohammad was planning to join her husband, Barakat, a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, at the dental school next fall.
Her younger sister, Abu-Salha, attended the nearby North Carolina State University. Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the shootings.
While police have not released details on the possible motivations behind their deaths, Hicks had frequently posted on social media accounts against prayer and religious beliefs, calling for a strong anti-theistic stance toward all faiths, Islam included. The UNC community rallied around the three young people Wednesday, tweeting and posting under the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter and decrying their deaths as a hate crime and a tragedy.
Barakat and Mohammad had only been married in December. Both were active in community service, and Barakat was raising money to provide dental care to refugees displaced and abandoned by the Syrian civil war.
Many commentators have remarked on the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in America in recent months. After mainstream media failed to cover the lone gunman's attacks on the three Muslim students Tuesday, the story went viral on Twitter under the hashtag #ChapelHillShooting. Many Twitter users harshly criticized the media's silence and called for a reckoning with America's endorsements of anti-Muslim sentiment.
In turn, Al Jazeera's Mohamad Elmasry pointed to the "one-sided, narrow, sensationalistic, and arguably bigoted Western media portrayals of Islam and Muslims" as bearing some responsibility for the spread of anti-Muslim crimes and bigotry.
Images: Getty Images