Students gather to mourn Chapel Hill victims


Photo Credit: Amy Rose


On Friday, Feb. 13, The George Mason Muslim Student Alliance hosted a vigil in honor of the three victims of the Chapel Hill, N.C. shooting on Feb. 10.

The vigil started with a recitation of verses from the Quran, a series of prayers and a moment of silence. More than 200 Mason students, staff and community members were in attendance.

The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education organized an open space for dialogue after the vigil for any students wishing to share their thoughts and engage in discussion about the shooting and its larger implications for the Muslim American community.

“In order to foster dialogue and companionship between all demographics on campus, we need to foster communication […] we need to accept our differences and help build each other up. In order to do this, we need open panels for discussion about contemporary topics to cultivate that communication,” said Farzana Olla, vice president of United Muslim Relief GMU.

The victims, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, her husband Deah Shaddy Barakat and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were found dead in their apartment on Feb. 10 by apparent gun shot wounds. Their neighbor, 46-year old Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested in connection with the crime.

The purpose of the vigil was not solely to mourn the death of the three students, but to honor and highlight their commitments to service and volunteerism.

“We stand together in memory and in motivation to continue their good work, to spread peace, and to continue loving one another for the sake of God and of the sake of humanity and taking care of one another,” said Sarah Olibah, vice president of Mason’s Muslim Student Association.

Candles and carnations were sold to raise money for Syrian Dental Relief, an initiative started by Barakat to provide dental care for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters were active members of their community and involved with United Muslim Relief’s Triangle Chapter, a non-profit non-governmental organization originally started at Mason.

“One of the greatest ways of showing love and kindness is through volunteerism. We need to better our world, not just our community, which is exactly what our heroes attempted to do through United Muslim Relief,” said Bilel Gdoura, president of UMR GMU.