Mourners remember slain North Carolina Muslims amid fresh calls for hate probe
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral prayers on Thursday (Feb 12) for three young Muslims killed in North Carolina - as the father of two of the victims urged U.S. authorities to probe whether religious hatred was a motive for the murders.
Newlywed Deah Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were gunned down on Tuesday in a condominium about two miles (three km) from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.
Police charged the couple’s neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, with murder.
Investigators say initial findings indicate a dispute over parking prompted the shooting.
But they are looking into whether Hicks was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim.
The FBI said it was opening its own preliminary inquiry, separate from local police investigations but did not specify if the inquiry would include whether the shooting was a hate crime.
The murders have prompted vigils and the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter on social media.
It has also raised concerns among some Muslim advocates in the U.S. who say they have seen an increase in threats against their communities in recent weeks.
Speaking to mourners in a field near a mosque in Raleigh, the women’s father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, called on Obama to insist that the FBI investigate the case as a possible hate crime.
“This has hate crime written all over it.
“If they don’t listen carefully, I will yell.”
He said the victims’ families did not want revenge or care about Hicks’ punishment, but rather sought to ensure that other young people in the United States would not suffer similar violence.
The FBI designates as hate crimes those that are motivated or partly motivated by bias against race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
Such crimes generally carry greater penalties.
According to FBI statistics, U.S. law enforcement agencies reported roughly 6,900 offenses motivated by bias in 2013.
Of those, 165 offenses were crimes resulting from bias against Muslims, the data shows. None were murders.
ANGRY OVER PARKING, NOISE
Hicks’ wife and some neighbors have said he appeared angry about parking at the condominium where he lived, not motivated by hatred of Muslims.
A paralegal student at Durham Technical Community College since 2012, Hicks portrayed himself on Facebook as an atheist and filled his social media page with anti-religion posts.
Neighbor Samantha Maness, 25, said he was known in the condo community as someone quick to anger over parking troubles and noise. He had confronted her and friends in the past when he thought they were being too loud, she said.
Police in Chapel Hill had not released any new details about their investigation on Thursday.
Sources: Reuters, Twitter