OKLAHOMA CITY - Local Muslims gathered for a prayer vigil on Sunday night to remember the victims of the Chapel Hill, North Carolina murders.
Deah Barakat, 23; Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were shot to death inside their condominium Feb.10.
Their neighbor, 46-year-old Craig Hicks, was arrested and charged with three counts of murder.
Police have said Hicks committed the crimes because of an ongoing parking dispute.
They say one of the victims had parked in Hicks’ spot and it made him angry.
However, the victims’ families and many in the Muslim community are calling this a hate crime, claiming Hicks killed them because they were Muslim.
Sunday night, they were remembered in Oklahoma City as “our three winners.”
“They lost their lives to a horrific and senseless crime, something that I think not only shook the American Muslim community, but I think it shook at the hearts of people of faith across the country,” said Adam Soltani, executive director
of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The three victims were remembered as martyrs who embodied the Muslim faith.
Speakers shared how Barakat’s final posts on social media were about providing care for the homeless and raising money for Syrian refugees.
“They embodied the very example of our prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in serving the poor and needy,” said Soltani.
“The lives and actions of our three winners spoke for them when it mattered the most,” said Khalid Alzubi, a local Muslim who is in dental school, just like Barakat.
In lieu of candles, those attending the prayer vigil turned on the flashlights on their smart phones.
Several speakers offered up prayers for the victims and their families, including a retired Episcopal priest who attended the service.
“Look with compassion on the whole human family. Take away the hatred and arrogance that infect our hearts. Break down the walls that separate us,” said Father John Borrego.
And a resounding theme from all speakers was that the best way to honor the victims is to continue their mission of serving in this world.
Both the Justice Department and the FBI are looking into the possibility that this was a hate crime.