Bology freshman Ameel Chaudhary wiped tears out of his eyes as photos of fellow Muslim students flashed onto the screen.
“Sometimes it takes a great tragedy to unite us,” he said. “It is difficult to look at their pictures.”
Wednesday night, the Muslim Student Association held a vigil in Dale Hall for three Muslim students who were shot in their apartment in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Feb. 10. The vigil included a photo slideshow of the victims, prayers and a moment of silence.
The event focused on the deaths of Deah Bakarat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Mohammad’s sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, who were shot by their neighbor, Craig Hicks.
The Chapel Hill Police Department have not confirmed a motivation for the shooting, but the students’ families claim that it was a hate crime against the students’ Islamic faith.
Hicks has been indicted on three counts of murder and one count of discharging a firearm in an occupied dwelling.
At the vigil, a slideshow of the students who were killed played on a screen. A poster with their photos and lights sat on the stage.
Over a hundred students, faculty and community members sat in the lecture hall.
The vigil began with a speech from Manar Kabbani, Muslim Student Association president and microbiology senior, who talked about the victims and their accomplishments in the community and school.
Afterward, students spoke about the tragedy and how it affected them.
University of Central Oklahoma sophomore Zona Quershi shared a poem she wrote to her younger sisters in response to the shooting.
“It breaks my already broken heart,” Quershi said. “But…for every terrible person, there are 10 good ones, and for every act of hate there are 20 acts of love.”
Quershi urged her sisters, and the crowd, to be hopeful instead of fearful in the wake of the shooting.
“The three that died, they did not lose,” Quershi said. “They brought people together and made people realize what a waste hatred and anger are. Don’t fear it.”
After Quershi’s poem, Mobeena Amil, biology junior and vice president of Muslim Student Association, gave a speech about the fear she has because of the shooting.
“For the past week these three individuals have clouded my every thought and have received innumerable prayers from my lips,” Amil said. “When I first found out I was shocked, upset and a little afraid.”
Amil said the thought that someone could harm her or her friends because of their faith scares her.
“It terrifies me that my beliefs and the scarf that I wear on my head, the very scarf that Yusor and Razan wore so proudly, the very scarf that gives me courage and confidence every single day could be the very reason that anyone could hate me,” Amil said.
The vigil concluded with a prayer lead by Kabbani and a moment of silence. The lights were turned off and several students held up flashlights.
Amil said it is important for the community to recognize events like this because they do not just concern the victims.
“This was not only a Muslim tragedy,” Amil said. “This was a tragedy for all college students, all minorities … and all human beings who believe that all men were created equal.”
Moira Ozias, the associate director of the ConocoPhillips Writing Center, said it is important to acknowledge discrimination faced on campus.
“I want to support the [Muslim Student Association] and the victims of the shooting and their families,” Ozias said. “It may not have happened [here], but student on our own campus face discrimination every day, and it’s important to be aware of that.”