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Georgia’s Muslim community has rallied together in the aftermath of Tuesday’s Chapel Hill shootings, quickly planning candlelight vigils and food drives in remembrance of the three Muslim students who were murdered in their North Carolina apartment Tuesday by a self-described atheist.
The first candlelight vigil is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 in Centennial Olympic Park.
“This is a peaceful gathering and a time for us to come together and support freedom,” event organizers said in an online announcement. “This is our opportunity to show that a hate crime against one community is a crime not against just that one community, but against all of humanity.”
Over five hundred people currently plan to attend the vigil, according to the event’s Facebook page. Attendees plan to pray for victims Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's 19 year-old sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
Other Georgia Muslims reportedly traveled to North Carolina early Thursday to attend the funeral prayer for at least one of the victims. Many others are looking for ways to show their support locally.
“I think that Georgia Muslims can help by attending the [Thursday night] vigil,” said Alan Howard, a local Muslim who is active in interfaith dialogue.
Howard said the local community can also help by “bringing canned goods to specified locations as part of the food drive, and encouraging their imams to give khutbas—not necessarily on the killings themselves, but maybe the sanctity of life and topics of [that] nature.”
The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta, and numerous other local mosques were already in the midst of hosting its annual food drive, “Being Your Neighbors’ Keeper” when the shootings occurred.
Now that drive is being held in memory of the three victims.
“The ISB and the Atlanta Muslim community at large urge all Atlantans to participate in support of the food drive, as the victims were humanitarians, leaders, and contributors to their community and the world, and we wish to continue their legacy,” planners said in a statement
Those wishing to donate food can view a map of available locations at AtlantaMuslim.com
Others have also encouraged well-wishers to donate to the Syrian American Medical Society in support of Syrian Dental Relief, a fundraising drive arranged by Ali Heydary and victim Deah Barakat. Barakat was attending the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.
“Overall, the dental situation in Syria and at the refugee camps has become desperate,” Barakat wrote in his fundraising call. “Despite the governments' efforts to accommodate the overwhelming influx of refugees, facilities are not equipped to handle the number of patients with the limited funds available.”
Barakat planned to travel to a school in Turkey this summer along with ten dentists and faculty from UNC to help those affected by Syria’s ongoing civil war. According to YouCare announcement, the school serves over two thousand students.
“Hundreds of students are currently in need of urgent dental care, mainly consisting of fillings and extractions,” he wrote. “Following each procedure, we will provide oral hygiene instructions and fluoride treatment to prevent future tooth decay.”
Friends of Barakat said the fundraising drive was just one example of his giving personality.
“In the years I’ve been blessed to know Deah, he has always been a selfless, genuine and loving friend,” said Akbar Khader, a Georgia resident, in a Facebook posting. “He was a leader in the North Carolina community not by his words but his actions. I will always remember him for how humble he was.”
Since news of the shooting spread around the world, donations to Barakat’s fundraising drive have ballooned, easily surpassing the organization’s $20,000 goal. As of Thursday morning, nearly $214,000 had been raised.
Local Muslims are hopeful that people here and around the world will continue to rally in the wake of Tuesday’s murders.
“Given the level of activism that I am seeing, I suspect there will be further initiatives coming quickly,” Howard said.
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