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46-Year-old man charged with killing three college students in Chapel Hill

Three college students were murdered last night in an apartment in Chapel Hill. In the aftermath of this brutal shooting, few facts are known. But many are questioning the motive that alleged killer 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks had in killing three young Muslims.

Islamophobia is a major problem in the United States, and whether or not prejudice against Muslims contributed to the students’ deaths, it deserves to be part of the national conversation. Regardless of Hicks’ motives, the horrific fact remains that three lives have been lost to senseless violence.

One of the victims, 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, had helped to raise over $24,000 to travel to Turkey to provide dental work to Syrian refugees in Turkey. The dental student of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was shot in the head along with his wife, 21-year-old North Carolina State University student Yusor Mohammad and Mohammad’s 19-year-old sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Abu-Salha was also a student at North Carolina State University. Barakat and Mohammad were newlyweds.

They lived in a quiet community of graduate students and families — a community now reeling from the shocking murders.

Many on social media have characterized these murders as anti-Muslim. Hicks’ Facebook page shows that he primarily posted memes related to atheism and equality. According to what little can be gleaned from Facebook, he doesn’t fit the bill for a radical, violent anti-Muslim. But he openly condemns all religion, and his posts included images of a handgun.

The Muslim community is understandably rattled by what has the appearances of a targeted hate crime. Three young people who had bright futures ahead of them have been senselessly killed, and everyone should consider this a tragedy.

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