Local vigils held for 3 slain North Carolina Muslim students

Muslims across the world are upset at what they say is a lack of national coverage after the shooting deaths of three students in a condominium complex near the University of North Carolina. 

The movement is giving rise to the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter on social media.

Locally, the Muslim Students Association at the University of Michigan held a candlelight vigil to remember the victims, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; Yusor Mohammad, 21, both of Chapel Hill; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh, all students at UNC.

One of the big questions students are asking is why the shooting is not being considered a hate crime, considering the suspects' Facebook page had hateful comments about religion - especially Islam.

RELATED LINK: Were 3 slain for their religion or their parking space?

Nearly 200 people gathered in Ann Arbor and 100 more in Dearborn to pay tribute to the victims and to raise awareness of Islamophobia.

"It really does affect Muslims on a day to day basis," says Sarah Khen. "This is a horrific event in which Islamophobia manifested in such as way that it took away three lives."

Police say 46-year-old Craig Hicks, who has described himself as a "gun toting" atheist, pulled the trigger.

"I was shocked, slightly horrified, that each of them were shot in the head - one at a time," says Sania Masoud. Masoud said she knows one of the victims' sister.

"I can't imagine what she feels right now," Masoud says. "It's her young brother. I mean, he's in the most beautiful part of his life. He's in grad school; he just got married; he's just starting his life."

Deah Barakat was a dental student at University of North Carolina, and started an online fundraiser to help provide the homeless and Syrian refugees with dental care. The fundraiser has raised more than $150,000.

"We're battling people being racist or biased towards a lot of different identities," says Kareem Hakim. "I think it's important for people of all different identities to come together."

Former Republican State Representative Rocky Raczkowski does not think the shooting was a hate crime.

"I can understand how the Muslim community would think this is a hate crime," he says. "It was just his hate taken out on three individuals of the Islamic faith."

While police say the shooting may have stemmed over a parking dispute, the Muslim community and many outside of it are not buying it. They say the victims were murdered because of their faith.

"I think by saying it's a parking dispute you undermine their lives, their struggles, their identity as Muslims in America and sympathize with the aggressor," says Khen.

"I hope that as a U.S. community we can try to embrace diversity," says another student. "Whether it's religious, or color of your skin or ethnic background, and that we can be more tolerant of one another."

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