NC murders need strong response

The murders of three Muslim-American college students in North Carolina last week have sparked questions about the motives of the suspected gunman. Craig Stephen Hicks allegedly killed Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha in a conflict over parking spaces.

However, the way each student was killed — single shots to the head — and the fact that the suspect made prior threatening actions and statements, has many people wondering whether there was an alternative or parallel motive behind the killings. In the weeks prior to her death, Yusor Abu-Salha told her father that Hicks “hates us for what we are and how we look.”

Because of the nature of the crime, the FBI has opened a preliminary inquiry into the case, but it has not yet announced any findings or further actions. Many civil rights and advocacy groups are pressing for a full federal hate crime investigation.

In a letter signed by 150 groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, chapters of the Jewish Voice for Peace and the NAACP, advocates noted that a strong national response is necessary.

Other alleged hate crimes, including the assault of Native American middle school students in South Dakota last month and some of the events leading to the Black Lives Matter movement, are troubling reminders that bigotry is still present throughout our country.

We support the opening of a hate crime investigation in the North Carolina murders, and we encourage everyone to stand against ignorance and bigotry in all of its various forms.