The "execution-style" murders of three men in Fort Wayne, Indiana, have sparked fears about the rise of Islamophobic hate crimes in the U.S.
The victims, two Muslims and one Christian of Sudanese descent, have been identified as Muhannad Tairab, 17, Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, and Adam Mekki, 20, Middle East Eye reports. Their bodies were found in an abandoned house east of downtown Fort Wayne on Feb. 24, shot “execution-style,” according to local police.
Although their deaths are still being investigated and police have cautioned the public to not assume a motive for the crime, activists have held vigils to honor the three men, and supporters have quickly rallied to protest what many see as yet another example of anti-Muslim hate crimes.
“When the news first broke, the biggest concern was that the crime was Islamophobic,” Gohar Salam, the president of Fort Wayne’s largest Islamic center, told Middle East Eye. “But luckily we live in a town where we have strong relations with the police, the authorities and the FBI. After their initial assessment, [they determined] that there was no evidence of hate involved.”
However, others are connecting these crimes to similar attacks against Muslims, such as the shooting of three students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. Although police said the attack was over a “parking dispute,” one of the victims had previously told her father that the shooter, her neighbor, “hates us for who we are and how we look."
The number of reported hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. tripled since the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, according to The New York Times. Activists point to this fact as evidence that more needs to be done to educate the public and punish such crimes.
Salam said he hopes the national outcry over the deaths of the three men in Fort Wayne, said Salam, will initiate change to protect Muslims in the future, according to Middle East Eye.
"If the rhetoric of hate settles down, we can live in harmony and peace,” Salam said. “It’s very sad how things are [in the U.S.] right now. An entire generation is being scarred by hate. This is going to hurt the fabric of our society. In the end, we all have to live together. America is great, and we have to make it greater.”