If anyone in the room could relate to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting, it would be Dr. Mohammed Abu-Salha.
Abu-Salha is the father of Yusor and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, who were fatally shot along with Yusor’s husband, Deah Barakat, in February 2015 in Chapel Hill. In court documents and hearings, investigators have contended that Craig Hicks fatally shot Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters in a long-simmering parking dispute among neighbors at a condominium complex.
Abu-Salha described it Sunday as a hate crime, which he said will become clear as evidence is introduced during the trial.
“Hate has a price, and it is very expensive,” said Abu-Salha, of Raleigh. “That price I paid does not blind me from seeing the beauty of this community I live in and the country I live in and the thousands of Americans that came to our rescue.”
Never miss a local story.
People of all kinds, colors, creeds and religions were sympathetic and helpful. The moment, he said, was an example of how a tragedy can galvanize a community.
“All you need is humanity,” he said. “It doesn’t have to do with any faith.”
The comments came as a panel of six talked for more than an hour in a forum titled “Straight Talk with Real Muslims.” Much of the conversation centered on what it was like to be a Muslim in America, the challenges they face and the refugee crisis.
The conversation started at Flyleaf Books in March in response to escalating rhetoric about Muslims. The event was so crowded, they had to turn people away, said Krista Bremer, moderator and author of “My Accidental Jihad.” So they decided to have a second event, she said. About 150 attended the Sunday panel at the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist.
One of the panelists suggested that they delay the event after learning about the Orlando gay nightclub shooting that killed 50 people and a gunman who pledged alliance to ISIS, Bremer said.
But eventually the panel agreed it was more important than ever to hold the forum so they could counter one-dimensional portrayals of Muslims and hateful rhetoric.
Bremer said they won’t have any answers for the audience about the shooting.
“The feelings that you have about this event are the same feeling that we are struggling with,” she said. “We are struggling with our shock. We are struggling with our outrage. We are struggling with our fear.”
They also won’t be able to explain “what the real Islam” is, she said.
“There are as many ways to be Muslim as there are ways to be Christian or Jewish or Buddhist,” she said.
Panel member Deonna Kelli Sayed, a Greensboro writer, said the most vulnerable communities in the nation and state are LGBTQ people and immigrant Muslims and Muslims of color.
“It’s time that we have a conversation, at least politically, about how we can become allies,” she said.