World Bulletin / News Desk
Al-Azhar, the centre of Islamic learning in Egypt, on Thursday condemned the killings of three young Muslims by a gunman in the United States as a "terrorist and racist" act.
A man who had posted anti-religious messages on Facebook and quarrelled with neighbours has been charged with the shootings.
Muslim activists in the United States and around the world have demanded authorities investigate a possible motive of religious hatred. Police said on Wednesday the case involved a dispute over parking and possibly a hate crime.
"Al-Azhar expresses its deep shock and concern at this cowardly terrorist act, which indicates that terrorism has no nationality or religion," said a statement issued by the 1,000-year-old seat of religious learning, respected by Muslims around the world.
A judge on Wednesday ordered Hicks held without bail pending a March 4 probable cause hearing.
Al-Azhar urged U.S. authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice "in order to prevent its recurrence which may lead to widening the gap between the east and the west".
Some Muslims in Arab states have accused the Western media and governments of paying too little attention to the killings, in contrast with the blanket coverage of the attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known for lampooning Islam, in January.
"THREE LOVING PEOPLE"
The following is a glimpse at the lives of three Muslim students who were shot dead near the Universityof North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, an incident that police are investigating as a
possible hate crime.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with first-degree murder in the killings and was in custody after a
brief court appearance on Wednesday. He had posted anti-religion messages to his Facebook page and
said he was studying to become a paralegal.
Information about the victims - Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19 - came from their personal social media pages and the pages of their
families and friends: - Deah Shaddy Barakat, who married Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha on Dec. 27, was a dental student at
the University of North Carolina. He regularly volunteered to provide free healthcare to the poor in the
United States and abroad. Last month, Barakat handed out free dental supplies and food to homeless
people in downtown Durham, North Carolina, and had made similar efforts in nearby Raleigh.
Over the summer, Barakat traveled to Turkey to help perform fillings, root canals and oral hygiene
instruction to refugees.
Photos of Barakat show him as being a playful young man who enjoyed basketball and going on adventuretrips, including on a recent parasailing excursion in Mexico.
"A little adrenaline rush at the beginning and landing, but so peaceful once you're up," he wrote of the
experience on Facebook last month.
In one of his last text messages, he wrote to his mother: "I love you mama." - Yusor Abu-Salha joined her then-boyfriend, Barakat, on the humanitarian dental mission to Turkey.
Abu-Salha, who studied Human Biology at North Carolina State University, was set to begin dental school the next school year.
In her social media postings, Abu-Salha celebrated her marriage with photos depicting a joyous wedding
ceremony. One image showed Abu-Salha dancing with her father in a flowing wedding dress, a circle of
smiling faces surrounding them.
"She and Deah found in one another a kindred spirit," sister-in-law Suzanne Barakat said.
Other postings showed Abu-Salha as an active young woman who played on a squash sports team and belonged to numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Muslim American Society in her hometown of Raleigh.
Abu-Salha was killed alongside her sister, Razan. Both women wore traditional Muslim head scarfs. Razan Abu-Salha, 19, began studying architecture and environmental design at North Carolina State
University last year.
In April, she attended a fundraiser for Islamic Relief USA, which provides emergency food, healthcare
and other aid to Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Razan was involved with making multimedia art and helped develop a video that was intended to spread positive and hopeful messages about being Muslim-American.
Her family described Razan as a highly creative and generous person, whose best friend was her sister, Yusor.