Groups host vigil to mourn deaths of Muslim men, shooting of 4th victim
Roughly 80 students gathered Tuesday night in order to mourn the deaths of three young men and pray for another who was wounded and remains in critical condition following a police shooting on Feb. 26.
One of many now being held across the country, this vigil, held by the Muslim Public Relations Council, the University’s Black Lives Matter chapter, the Rutgers University Muslim Student Association and the Ahlul-Bayt Student Association, grieved for Mohamed Taha Omar, Adam Kamel Mekki and Muhannad Adam Tairab.
The three East-African men were shot multiple times “execution style” in a home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The last victim, 17-year-old Abdi Mohamed, was shot by police after officers interceded in an assault that the Salt Lake City resident allegedly committed, according to a statement released by the Salt Lake City Police Department.
As civil rights groups called for police transparency, several hundred protesters incensed by the shooting protested in the city on Monday, according to ABC.
Those attending the vigil were not there out of anger, said Mujtaba Qureshi, Vice President of the Muslim Student Association. Instead, they sought to acknowledge the shootings and lend a voice to the victims.
“There are a lot of concerns ... with what happened, with how there wasn't much media coverage of the situation. Today, we're not talking about that,” Qureshi, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, said. “We just want to use this as an opportunity to remember, to give them our prayers, to express patience.”
Despite the apparent injustice, Muslim Public Relations Council Vice President Mohamed Asker warned that not all the emotions felt at the vigil should be heeded.
“At a vigil there are a lot of different emotions going on in your head. Sometimes there's sadness inside,” Asker, a School of Engineering sophomore, said. “Something like this does fill you with rage and anger, but that's not the response you should have. Anger is not the solution to anything.”
Instead of letting rage induced by the shooting fester, students should remember the victims for who they were, he said.
“(Abdi Mohamed) was a loving father to his son, his girlfriend stated that he was always trying his best to care for them and love for them. He never did a single thing wrong to either of them,” he said.
The best course of action, he said, was to move forward and inspire others to be better.
Qureshi said mourners should shelve their anger and show patience to come to terms with their sorrow.
Despite the vigil’s goal, the situation may cast a light on already present problems, said Yasmin Ramadan, president of the Muslim Public Relations Council.
Media coverage of the shootings came late, Ramadan, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said.
“We feel that there is a lack of awareness in the community, and this vigil specifically was to spread awareness that we must mourn all deaths, not just some deaths, and we must do it as a community,” she said.
Taufeeq Ahamed, the Muslim Student Association’s President and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said recognizing injustice was the first step to righting the scales.
“It's our duty to stand up and to make sure that awareness is spread and that action is taken, because what happens when the stories of those who are oppressed are not written, we find that that oppression can be continued,” he said. “The first step is to make the problem visible.”
While members of the various host groups knew about the shootings, they only knew because of connections between them and the victims, Mujtaba said.
Many students on campus do not know about the shootings, and many of those will likely never recognize the tragedy, he said.
Shabbir Abbas, a Muslim Public Relations Council representative and a student in the Rutgers Graduate School—New Brunswick, called for unified support.
“The friends of these three young men in Indiana and the one in Utah have been tested and are being tested in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine,” he said. “The Muslim community, as conflicting and diverse as it is, stands together, but doesn't just stand with fellow Muslims.”
Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.