Strongly condemn the murders of three promising, young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 12th of February, 2015

I strongly condemn the senseless killings of the three young and promising students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which took place yesterday on the 12th of February, 2015. Deah Barakat, 23, and his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were gunned down by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46.

While no official motive for the murders have been confirmed by the police, we cannot rule out that this was a hate crime carried out against 3 Muslim students by an avowed atheist with strong views against all religions. Hate crimes of any nature cannot be tolerated and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

What made these murders even more tragic was the cutting short of three promising lives. Deah Barakat was a dental student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and was involved in giving out free dental supplies and food to the homeless in Durham, North Carolina. Deah and his wife, Yusor, whom he married in December 2014, were also involved in dental medical relief work in Turkey and the Middle East. Yusor would have started her dental school in August, 2015. Razan was an architecture and environmental design student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina and was a supporter of Islamic Relief USA, an NGO which provides relief care for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

I lived in Durham, North Carolina (less than 20km from Chapel Hill) for 6 years while pursuing my PhD in political science at Duke University. I’ve always known Chapel Hill to be a safe and secure neighbourhood populated mostly by students, professors and staff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I know that the community at Chapel Hill would be shocked by these senseless and tragic murders.

At the same time, it is encouraging to see many people from all religions, ethnic groups and backgrounds coming out to condemn these killings. A candlelight vigil which was organized last night at UNC was attended by thousands (See picture below). This spirit of solidarity in the midst of adversity should be an inspiration to us all.

Candlelight vigil organized at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, on the 11th of February 2015