A group of about 20 students gathered in Quarry Plaza Tuesday morning around a poster reading “Black Muslims Matter,” to grieve for the three young black men murdered Feb. 24 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The vigil was organized by members of campus’s African Student Union (ASU), Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Afrikan/Black Student Alliance (A/BSA) to shed light on existing anti-blackness and Islamophobia.
Individual signs read the names of the victims, Adam Mekki (20), Mohamedtaha (Taha) Omar (23) and Muhannad Tairab (17). The three, all from East African families, were found shot “execution-style” in a vacant house. The local Police Department spokesman Officer Michael Joyner told CNN that all three were U.S. citizens “originating from another country” — two of the victims were Muslim and one Christian. There have been few updates and authorities have continued to seek the public’s assistance in the crime. Authorities are not investigating the murders as a hate crime.
“As a black Muslim, I feel this is an issue that needed to be addressed,” said Lina Salam, A/BSA’s Politics and Cultural Affairs Chair. “There are a lot of black Muslims who fall in the middle of these two communities, but feel a lot of isolation when it comes to how people react to these issues in the news.”
Initially planned for last Friday, the vigil was postponed due to the rain. Salam and Thooba Samimi, former MSA Vice President, spoke to the group about the incident and then asked for a moment of silence for the three victims. After, students and onlookers were encouraged to share their own experiences with anti-blackness or Islamophobia.
“Black American students and Muslim students on campus struggle to find a comfort zone,” Samimi said. Both Salam and Samimi pointed to a lack of confronting anti-blackness and Islamophobia on campus on behalf of the administration. From inadequate staff training to a lack of diverse classes to address these issues, Samimi said “campus is doing nothing” to improve campus climate for students.
Salam said this vigil is part of constant cooperation between different student groups to dismantle both internal and external prejudices toward the black community. “There’s a been lot of support and a lot of allyship that’s being brought to the table, which is very good,” she said.