UC Berkeley groups host vigil to honor victims of UNC shooting

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Andrea Seet/Staff

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To honor the victims of a recent shooting at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, campus organizations came together to hold a vigil on Sproul Plaza on Thursday evening.

The vigil memorialized three Muslim students — Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha — who were shot and killed at their home Tuesday evening. 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks was charged with murder in connection with the shootings.

The event was organized by the political action committee of the Muslim Student Association, or MSA, in conjunction with other student groups such as Berkeley Hillel and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Approximately 200 students gathered on the steps of Sproul around 6 p.m., many greeting each other with hugs and words of assurance. The program began with a reading of verses from the Quran, followed by a video tribute from one of the victim’s friends.

Abdi Hassan, co-chair of the MSA, said that despite the event’s gravity, he hoped the vigil would strengthen the campus community.

“This isn’t a Muslim-only tragedy,” he said. “This is a tragedy for college students everywhere. This affects all of us as students. This could have been any students from any community.”

Unis Barakat, co-chair of MSA, spoke prior to the event and called the vigil a way for the student body to express its grief and support for the victims’ families.

Barakat also emphasized the importance of holding the media accountable in order to confront the issue of Islamophobia.

“The media coverage has been very minimal, they’ve been slow to cover it, and they’ve avoided discussing the prejudice involved,” he said. “The culture of Islamophobia is very important to combat at UC Berkeley to avoid resurgence and protect our community.”

After a minute of silence, individuals in the crowd were asked to turn to their neighbors and share their reactions upon hearing the news reports of the shootings. Many cited shock, sadness and frustration with the media, while others were shaken by the similarities between themselves and the victims.

Marium Navid, a UC Berkeley junior and ASUC senator, spoke about the events at UNC during Wednesday’s ASUC meeting. Although she said the ASUC has no definite plans, she added that “there will be some type of action.”

Navid said the ASUC and campus groups, such as the Greek community, hope to hold anti-Islamophobia workshops in the near future.

The floor was also opened for public comment in which students and faculty were invited to express their thoughts. Aiman Arif, president of MSA, was among the speakers and urged the audience not to be paralyzed by fear.

“Don’t let the actions of a few hateful individuals let us lose our hope in humanity,” she said. “Don’t let them stop us from living our lives.”

Contact Ivana Saric at [email protected].