Magazine Feature

Toolkit for Dressing in Solidarity

On Feb. 10, 2015, three Muslim university students of Arab descent were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, leaving an educational community shocked and reeling. Criticisms quickly surfaced in the United States and internationally that many U.S. media organizations did not adequately cover this horrific crime or its aftermath. This toolkit offers a media literacy activity that educators can use to explore these topics with students.

On Feb. 10, 2015, three Muslim university students—Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19—were shot and killed in an apartment complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In the wake of this senseless tragedy, leaders from Arab and Muslim communities and others criticized mainstream media organizations for allegedly not covering the Chapel Hill shooting in an adequate manner. Some of the criticisms included chalking up the shooting to “a parking dispute” and not breaking the news in a timely manner. Educators can use the media literacy activity in this toolkit to prompt students to examine the news coverage of the Chapel Hill shooting. 


Essential Questions

  1. How did national media organizations cover the Chapel Hill shooting on Feb. 10, 2015 that claimed the lives of three university students?
  2. How can students show solidarity with Muslim peers and students in the wake of tragedies such as the Chapel Hill shooting? 



Ask students if they heard about how three university students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina were shot and killed in February 2015. What do they know? Collect students’ responses on the board. Make sure that the facts listed below are established before you proceed.

  • The crime took place in an apartment complex near the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on Feb. 10, 2015.
  • The three victims were university students: Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
  • Two of the victims were husband (Deah Shaddy Barakat) and wife (Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha), who were newlyweds. The third (Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha) was the wife's sister.
  • The victims were Muslims of Arab descent.
  • The perpetrator was a middle-aged white man named Craig Stephen Hicks. 



Distribute copies of the “News Coverage” handout to students, and provide access to the news reports listed under “Resources below—online or printed out—or an alternative set of sources. Divide students into groups, with each group assigned to review one news article. Tell groups to only complete one column of the chart and that you’ll reconvene as a class to discuss all of the articles and complete the rest of the chart later on. 



After students have read their assigned article and filled in one column of the chart, call the class together. Ask each group to report back to the rest of the class. Instruct students to fill in their charts as they listen to the other groups’ findings.

Then, discuss the following:

  • Did the coverage of the Chapel Hill shooting differ from one news source to another? How?
  • Did any of the articles describe a parking dispute? Explain.
  • Which articles discussed the topic of hate crimes? Explain.
  • What details, if any, in the news articles might contribute to stereotypes about Muslim Americans or Arab Americans? Explain.
  • Why do you think the news coverage was so varied?


Extension Activity

As the feature story “Dressing in Solidarity” captures, high school students in Oakland, California, responded to Chapel Hill shooting by wearing hijabs to school—an expression of solidarity. Distribute copies of "Wearing Hijabs in Solidarity" to students and have them read it in pairs. Then, reconvene the class and discuss the questions listed below. 

  • What do you think of the idea of wearing hijabs in solidarity?
  • What are important questions to ask when wearing the clothing of another culture to show solidarity? 
  • What could you do to show support and solidarity with Muslim students (or students from another non-majority group) in the wake of a tragedy such as the Chapel Hill shooting? 



Al Jazeera: Three Muslim students killed at North Carolina campus
(Feb. 11, 2015) 

FOX News: "He hates us": Muslim father of NC victims says daughter had run-ins with alleged killer
(Feb. 11, 2015)

Los Angeles Times: Muslims use social media to protest news coverage of North Carolina students' deaths
(Feb. 11, 2015) 

New York Times: “In Chapel Hill Shooting of 3 Muslims, a Question of Motive”
(Feb. 11, 2015)

USA Today: Chapel Hill "rocked" by killings of 3 Muslim students
(Feb. 12, 2015)

USA Today: Feds probe killings of 3 Muslims in N.C.
(Feb. 14, 2015)

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