UNC shooting brings SHU community together
Emily Balan/Assistant News Editor
Dozens of Seton Hall students took part in a candlelight vigil on the University Green Feb. 12 to mourn and honor three young Muslims who were fatally shot near the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10.
In an incident that raised concern around the country, the three victims, Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan Mohammad, were said to have had a history of bad relations with their neighbor, Taylor Hicks, who told police he shot them over a disputed parking space. However there are concerns that the shooting was a hate crime, aimed at the three because they were Muslim. Hicks turned himself into the police later that same day. A grand jury indicted him this week on three counts of first-degree murder and also charged him with discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling, according to a CNN report.
At Seton Hall, Belal Bahader along with two other students, Shmilah Choudhary and Thaha Sherwani, gave opening remarks to about 30 people who gathered around the seal. By the end of the hour-long service, more than 50 people were in attendance. Five posters with the names of each victim, “#AllLivesMatter” and “Chapel Hill Shooting” were placed on the seal, held down by rocks and chunks of ice on the windy evening.
Bahader, a junior, along with Areej Elahi and other members of the Muslim Student Association, helped organize the vigil service on Seton Hall’s campus.
“We organized this literally in a 24-hour window, it was me and a couple people from Muslim Student’s Association,” Bahader said. “Just anyone who was interested, I posted on Facebook if anyone wants to speak on the issue and people replied. Most of the people said yes to the event on Facebook and I just sent out emails mostly on the multicultural committee group.”
Student Raul Ausa read a passage from the Bible to represent the Christian community’s support and condolences. Among the non-students who attended the vigil were Fr. John Daniel Dennehy and the Rev. Forrest Pritchett, assistant dean of the Black Studies Center and faculty mentor in Freshman Studies.
Bahader said the reason for organizing this event was to express mourning for the victims but also to unite the Seton Hall community. He spoke to his experience that the community tends to keep more to themselves but it is important for there to be events like this to bring people together about any issue.
“Seton Hall University is not a community that’s united as I’d like it to be, and most of the people are to themselves and that’s problematic, especially for students. Student movements have been really successful, most of the movements that were started in history were led by young educated, people who wanted to influence change somehow and that’s the point of this is to move and to influence change,” Bahader said.
Police are continuing to investigate the incident in Chapel Hill because some are calling the shooting a hate crime. Accounts from neighbors and family members indicate that the three victims had suspicions about Hicks, including racism and Islamaphobia. Further, Hick’s Facebook account has multiple anti-religion posts, according to a CNN article.
On the incident, President Barack Obama said no one in the U.S. should be targeted for “what they look like” or “how they worship,” according to a BBC News article. Rev. Pritchett read the Sermon on the Mount from the Bible then spoke to the crowd about the importance of doing the right thing.
He said, “The world and this country are in need of intercessors, if we do nothing to reduce the evil, then we will be aiding in its continuation.”
On the importance of spreading awareness, Bahader said, “When the media covers it, the movement grows and the message gets to a farther audience and that’s really the goal, to get people to know what happened and to get people aware of everything that’s going on and to be active at the same time.”
Emily Balan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.