Turkish PM calls for 'joint attitude' after murders of Muslim students in US
CHAPEL HILL- Agence France-Presse
Students gather during a vigil on the campus of the University of North Carolina, for Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and Yusor's sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha who were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina February 11, 2015. REUTERS Photo.Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has commented on the killings of three Muslim students in the United States, saying he hoped there was no racist motive behind the murders and calling for a joint attitude against Islamophobia.
"We hope there is no racist motive in the murder of the three Muslim youngsters. But it is too early to say 'there is no such motive.' We don't know. When it comes out, I guess all governments in Europe and America will be able to show a common attitude against such racist acts. It is our right to see a common attitude and a serious stand against Islamophobia as happened in Paris,” he said.
Thousands of people gathered on Feb. 11 in Chapel Hill to mourn three Muslim students killed by an anti-religion gunman who shot them in the head execution style, rocking the tight-knit university town.
Friends and family poured onto the University of North Carolina campus to remember Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his new wife Yusor Mohammad, 21 and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu commented on the killings of the three students, saying he hoped there was no racist motive behind the murders.
"We hope there is no racist motive in the murder of the three youngsters. It is our right to see a common attitude against Islamophobia,” he said.
The three were allegedly killed by neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, whose Facebook page espoused his anti-religious views.
The murders are being investigated by Chapel Hill police as a hate crime, and sparked outrage among Muslims worldwide. Craig is charged with three counts of first degree murder, which carries a minimum sentence of death or life in prison without parole.
Police said they believed a parking dispute was the catalyst for the attack but added they had not ruled out the possibility that hatred of Muslims had motivated Hicks.
"We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case," Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said.
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The carefully worded statements of investigators contrasted sharply with the anguished reaction of the victim's families, who insisted police treat the killing as a "hate crime."
"This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime," said Mohammad Abu-Salha, the shattered psychiatrist father of the two women shot dead.
"This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt." Abu-Salha told the local News & Observer newspaper his daughter had voiced fears about Hicks last week.
"Honest to God, she said, 'He hates us for what we are and how we look,'" Abu-Salha was quoted as saying.
The killing rattled the university town, and thousands braved cold temperatures for a candlelit vigil.
"We lost three great citizens of this world and of this country. But I think they've inspired thousands," Farris Barakat, Deah's brother said before a tearful crowd.
He remembered his younger brother, a UNC dentistry student, as passionate about sports, his profession and the odd Chris Rock joke, as photos of the slain students flashed on a large screen.
But he urged restraint and said the murder should not provoke further violence.
"Do not fight fire with fire... it is quite possible that this was an act based off of evil and a scared ignorant man, do not let ignorance propagate in your life, do not reply ignorance with ignorance," he said.
Barakat and Mohammad were married in late December, and the new bride was set to start dental school in August. Her sister had attended nearby North Carolina State University.
Mohammad's bridesmaids remembered her plans to run a marathon, her commitment to meditation and the mosque and her love for breakfast cereal. They recalled her as a kind person.
"To speak about Yosur she was one of the most innocent, most kind human beings I have ever met in my entire life. I cannot even imagine as to why this would happen to her, and the same goes for Razan," said Omar Abdul-Baki, president of UNC dentistry school student body, speaking before a line dental students in white jackets.
Barakat, the son of Syrian immigrants, was remembered for his community work, offering free dental work to the needy and for raising money for a planned trip to Turkey to help Syrian refugees.
Childhood friend Abdul Salem said the crowds at the vigil were a testament to the impact that all three had.
He remembered Barakat as "always smiling, always positive and I don't mean that lightly. Obviously when tragedy hits people tend to remember the best things. But I challenge anyone to remember anything other than that about them," speaking after the vigil, surrounded by hugging and crying mourners.
"It's an opportunity for people to stop and remember not just the positive things, to remember them and not remember them not only because of this tragedy."
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called the three "exemplars of the community" and vowed that justice would be served.
"Whatever ridiculous, unthinkable thoughts inspired this action, he is done," he said of Craig.
Kleinschmidt vowed to move on from the tragedy and said the community would rebuild.
"Losing them this early in life is just, it's just unspeakably tragic. This town and that's what our next steps are going to be."
A funeral is scheduled for all three Thursday afternoon at the Islamic Association in neighboring Raleigh.