The three students; Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and Yusor’s younger sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot after an altercation in a condominium parking lot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo by Julio Avila (Feb. 17, 2015)
By Julio Avila
The Stony Brook Muslim Students’ Association held a vigil Tuesday night in the SAC auditorium, commemorating not only the lives of the three Muslim students murdered, but all lives.
The three students; Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and Yusor’s younger sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot after an altercation in a condominium parking lot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and indicted on three counts of murder. Investigators are also looking into the possibility of potential hate motives and the FBI has opened their own investigation.
The vigil commenced with organizers handing out battery-operated candles and Quranic verses were recited. Sister Sanaa Nadim, the Muslim Chaplain for the university’s Interfaith Center said the vigil was to mourn the victims, but to also to celebrate their lives.
“We are standing together for all the good that we can find in each other,” Nadim said. “But mostly to stand against the most spiritually crippling, threatening human emotion–hate.”
Nadim urged the audience to take a moment to “think about all those souls who have ascended into the heavens,” from violent actions such as terrorism. Among a few examples she mentioned were the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by Islamic State militants, the shootings in Paris and Copenhagen, the Jordanian pilot burned to death and the deaths of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teenager murdered last summer.
Invited speakers such as Dr. Ellen Driscoll, Assistant Dean of Students, and Robert Lenahan, Chief of the Stony Brook University Police, took to the podium to speak in support of halting the violence.
“We’re not so different from them,” Driscoll said. “At times, our hearts too have been broken with the loss of loved ones.”
“We’ve done a number of things since the tragedy and still continue to do so,” Lenahan said. “The University Police Department is here to support all its students.” Lenahan added that the police force is “aggressive” against hate crimes and has a zero tolerance policy towards such crimes.
Dr. Komal Magsi, a professor of engineering, said she was moved by how the three students helped their community and raised money for people they did not know.
“Embrace each other with love, kindness, respect, compassion and do as much as you can to soak your lives with service,” Magsi said. “It’s certainly in that, that you’ll find new doors opening for you.”
Poems and additional speeches of peace and condemnations of violence continued to be staples of the vigil. At times, the poems and speeches were read compassionately.
Yoseph Saleh, a friend of Deah, was another invited guest, but was unable to attend because of heavy traffic on his way to the vigil. He instead sent a speech to be read by another on his behalf. Saleh’s speech mentioned the time he and Deah first met at a mosque during a basketball game when Deah blocked Saleh’s lay-up shots. Saleh said he was mad after the game, but became friends with Deah after going out for food with other friends.
“I told him ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back in about two months during spring break and I’ll give it to you,’” Saleh said as he recounted a text message conversation he and Deah had when Deah was on his honeymoon with Yusor in Mexico. “Now I can’t. I can’t see him ever again and I didn’t even have a chance to give him his wedding gift.”
The vigil closed out with the lighting of the candles and with the song “Seasons of the Sun,” by Terry Jacks. “May God keep you in his tender care,” Nadim said before the song played.
Hadi Khan, an English major, said he feels crimes of hate are not only a “Muslim problem.”
“People all over the world are currently suffering from all sorts of problems, all sorts of genocides, all sorts of diseases,” Khan said. “We need to see others outside of ourselves.”