NYU Holds Vigil for Chapel Hill Murders in New York

Video courtesy of Costanza Maio This article comes from the Global Desk. NEW YORK CITY, USA — On Feb. 11, the Islamic Center at NYU held a vigil for ...

Feb 14, 2015

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This article comes from the Global Desk. 
NEW YORK CITY, USA — On Feb. 11, the Islamic Center at NYU held a vigil for the murders of Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19. Barakat was a dental student at University of North Carolina and Abu-Salha, his sister-in-law, was a student at North Carolina State University. According to the police, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks shot the victims over a parking dispute, although authorities will continue to look into the matter. Whilst Hicks’ wife claimed that this act was indeed because of parking issues, Dr. Mohammed Abu-Salha, the father of the daughters, said, "It was execution style, a bullet in every head. This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime.”
NYU’s memorial ceremony took place at Kimmel Center for University Life, starting with the recitation and translation of Surah Fatihah from the Holy Quran and was followed by candle lighting in Washington Square Park. Hundreds of people attended, including NYU Abu Dhabi students, students sporting UNC’s jerseys, various chaplains, staff and administration members.
NYU’s Humanist Chaplain Anne Klaeysen gave the first address highlighting how the event had left her shocked. She elaborated on the community services that the three victims were a part of, and how Barakat and his wife were planning to travel to Turkey to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees.
Hindu Chaplain Joseph Curoso emphasized that the demonstration and the number of people who showed up are an indication of the abhorrence that many feel towards religious or race-based crimes.
Protestant Chaplain Trevor Agatsuma addressed the attendees, saying that he is here on behalf of the Christian community at NYU. He highlighted that many students had reached out to him expressing their concern about safety and inclusion in NYU’s, as well as the United States’, community.
“You belong to NYU,” said Agatsuma, “You belong to this nation. You are not a second-class citizen… When we mourn, we join God.”
Jewish Chaplain Yehuda Sarna expressed his sorrow: “The murder of Deah, Yusor and Razan is a tragedy of horrific proportions. It’s a human tragedy. It’s an American tragedy. It’s a tragedy for the Muslim community.”
He further emphasized the parallels found between Muslim and Jewish faiths and said, “When someone of your faith is attacked, it feels deeply personal… You lose a member of your own family.”
On the question of whether the incident was a result of hate, he said, “If it is a hate crime, then America has serious work to do.” And he said that “America has serious work to do,” even if the incident is not equated to hate crime, emphasizing on the atrocity of the attack in either of the two circumstances.
Muslim Chaplain Imam Khalid Latif probed the audience to ask themselves, “Why does a tragedy become a necessity for us to gather like this?” He explained that hate cannot be eradicated by hate and that, as humans, we should come together because it is the right thing to do, rather than only coming together in times of tragedy. He narrated further incidents about students experiencing verbal abuse because of their Islamic attire and finished by asking the audience to hold a minute of silence in memory of the three victims.
Various NYUNY students also expressed their grief and sorrow at the incident and emphasized the humility and generous natures of the three victims. Friends and acquaintances of the victims left New York that morning to attend the funerals of Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters.
Khadeeja is global editor. Email her at
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