University students hold vigil for victims of Chapel Hill shooting

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Students gather to show their support at a vigil Friday on the Quad honoring the three murdered Muslim students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To honor the lives of the three Muslim students killed Wednesday near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Council on American-Islamic Relations at UIUC hosted an emergency vigil on the Quad Friday evening.

The victims were husband and wife Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salh, 19.

Barakat was a dental student at Chapel Hill and his wife had recently been accepted to study at the School of Dentistry next year. Razan Abu-Salha was a freshman studying architecture at North Carolina State University.

“Deah frequently volunteered to help the homeless in North Carolina by providing free dental supplies and food. And just last year, Yusor volunteered abroad to deliver dental supplies to children in refugee camps,” said Zahra Siddiqui, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and senior in LAS.

Siddiqui emphasized the importance of knowing these details about the victims “because people should know who they were and that they were amazing individuals that contributed so much to their community.”

To start the vigil, the council gave a short introduction, followed by a recitation from the Quran. Ahmad El Khatib, graduate research assistant in Engineering, gave a short talk to the crowd as someone who knew the victims.

Students volunteered to read excerpts people’s statements from North Carolina, and the vigil ended with a short prayer.

“I want tonight to be about three heroes, not victims,” El Khatib said.

Other than honoring the lives of those lost, the council said the event was an interfaith effort to bring together people of all backgrounds. Organizations, including Interfaith in Action, Diversity and Social Justice Education and the Women’s Resource Center, also provided support for the event.

Waleed Aldadah, public relations chair for the council and sophomore in LAS, said he wanted to celebrate the achievements of the three students.

“As a college student, I look up to their academic accomplishments and work ethic. As a Muslim, I look up to them religiously and morally. As an American, I look up to their community involvement and altruism,” Aldadah said. “They all excelled in every aspect of their lives, which deserves every ounce of honor and respect.”

Mahmoud Saad, friend of Aldadah and student at Chapel Hill, said the three students all had very good family backgrounds and education, and stood out in their community.

“People looked up to them academically, morally, and religiously,” Saad said.

Aldadah said he hopes the vigil can build a bridge between college communities because they need to come together in times like these.

The three students were so close to his age, Aldadah added, saying that this tragedy could have happened to anyone.

“If we look at all their successes ranging from local community involvement to international philanthropy, we can draw a major lesson from them,” Aldadah said. “Anybody can leave a legacy no matter his or her age. Therefore, we should all strive to be as accomplished as they were, and we can start now.”

He also called on the government to do what they can to quell these situations and said he hopes justice prevails in the end.

Siddiqui said there must be an end to the “senseless violence” seen this week.

“I hope that this unites the community together and everyone starts to really appreciate the precious value of human life,” Siddiqui said. “We can’t keep harboring ill feelings or hatred towards one another, because tragedies like this will continue to happen.”

Multiple students commented on the religious implications of Wednesday’s attack, and felt there was a lack of media coverage due to the fact that the victims were Muslim. Siddiqui said the coverage thus far has been saddening and insulting,

“I am here because this event impacted me a lot, I am a Muslim, of course you don’t have to be a Muslim to be impacted by the event, but it scares me,” said Farah Chalisa, junior in LAS. “I want to feel like I am a part of this country, but an event like this makes me feel like I am not.”

Liyuan can be reached at [email protected]