Fremont college students hold vigil, raising awareness for Muslim community

FREMONT, Calif. (KTVU) - The killing of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina Tuesday is raising safety concerns for the Muslim community including those in the Bay Area.

On Friday night at 6 p.m., during the evening commute, college students held a candlelight vigil at the busy intersection of Paseo Padre Parkway and Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

They were hoping to raise awareness for the Muslim community as they honored the three killed.

They recited prayers from the Koran, and candles adorned a banner with the victims' names.

"It could happen to me too. You never know. You never know who you can encounter," said Sara Kassed, an Ohlone college student who organized the vigil. "When this tragedy happened, you really start questioning your position in this country."

Some in the Muslim community are now questioning whether they should wear their head scarves, a symbol of their culture and faith.

There are growing safety concerns after a newlywed couple, Deah Sahddy Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, along with her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot and killed Tuesday in Chapel Hill. A neighbor surrendered a few hours later.

"When things like this happen, I question whether I'm safe because this happened to people just like me," said Kassed.

Questions are raised about the killer's motive, and whether it was a hate crime.

"It's hard not to be on edge for this community at a time where there's such vitriolic anti-Muslim sentiment," said Zahra Billoo with CAIR, a Muslim civil rights group.

"I'd hate for it to take another 50 years to make sure we have civil rights," said Bill Harrison, Mayor of Fremont who spoke to the crowd at the vigil.

Several Bay Area Muslim civil rights groups have joined a nationwide call Friday for the U.S Department of Justice to conduct a full federal investigation into the triple killing.

"The Muslim community is facing five times the number of hate crimes compared to before 9/11 , even now 13 or 14 years after that incident," said Mohamed Sabur, with Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group based in Oakland.

Those at the vigil say the loss of three lives - two studying to be dentists and one an architect - is unbearable.

Some say they are willing to sacrifice their safety as a tribute to the three killed by wearing their head scarves or "hijabs."

Organizers say the vigil was a way to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together.