DALLAS — Feb. 13, 2015 — Muslim Legal Fund of America joined 149 organizations in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to “open a full and rigorous federal hate crime investigation” of the brutal murders of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
The three Muslim students were shot to death in their home near University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tuesday evening. Chapel Hill police arrested Craig Stephen Hicks and charged him with three counts of first-degree murder. While authorities are still in the early stages of investigating this crime, reports of Hicks’ history of threatening behavior toward the students combined with anti-religious statements he made on social media have caused concern that his actions were motivated by anti-Muslim hatred.
“The facts we’re learning about this tragedy is worrisome because it appears the shooter may have picked on these students because two of them wore the Islamic headscarf,” said Khalil Meek, Executive Director of Muslim Legal Fund of America. “Religious expression is a protected freedom, and acts of violence motivated by contempt for one religious identity is a threat to the religious freedom so many cherish in America.”
In a statement earlier this week, Meek urged community members to be cautious in aftermath of these killings, citing information his organization was receiving about an increase in threats against Muslims by people seemingly “emboldened by the Chapel Hill shooting.” He advised Muslims who feel their life may be in danger or see someone else being threatened to immediately call 911 for help.
Muslim Legal Fund of America is a national charity that funds legal work and programs to defend Muslims against injustice in American courtrooms, prisons and communities. Established in 2001, MLFA has defending freedom of speech, association, religion, the right to a fair trial and other constitutional rights.