Posted on Feb 18, 2015
The Chapel Hill tragedy has left a huge hole in all of our hearts. The haunting wedding photos that Deah and Yusor never got to see, the heartbreaking yet uplifting quotes left by the three victims on their social media accounts and the undeniable strength of their families has left us awestruck and speechless. What makes this tragedy hit so close to home is the fact that so many of us as Muslim Americans see ourselves in them. Their smiles, their good works, their hijabs; they're so many of us and those that we love. In an effort to continue the lasting legacy of these beautiful women and in honor of the two fallen victims, we've dedicated this month's Hijabi of the Month to the memory of Yusor and Razan Abu Salha.
Yusor, 21, studied biology at NC State and was recently admitted to the UNC School of Dentistry where she was to join her husband Deah in the Fall. A newlywed, Yusor and Deah were married this past December and Yusor recently moved-in with her new husband, ready to start their lives together. A friend reminisces, "They were really an adorable young couple. I don't know how to say it ... they really radiated this kind of light. They radiated humility, kindness, love. You couldn't help but be inspired by them."
Fun-loving, compassionate and kind are just a few adjectives one could use to describe her. Yusor's best friend, Rana Odeh, fondly wrote of her, "Yusor was one of the most sincere people I know: she genuinely cared for others, both those she knew and those she did not. She worked to be an active human of this world through her philanthropic work; she extended a helping hand to anyone who needed it regardless of any label or belief, to anyone in the world because she, along with Razan and Deah, spread their help across state and international lines."
Last summer, Yusor, along with her 3rd grade teacher, sat down with NPR's StoryCorps to talk about what life taught them. Yusor stated,
"Growing up in America has been such a blessing. And although in some ways I do stand out, such as the hijab I wear on my head, the head covering, there are still so many ways that I feel so embedded in the fabric that is, you know, our culture."
She continues, "And that's the beautiful thing here, is that it doesn't matter where you come from. There's so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions — but here we're all one, one culture. And it's beautiful to see people of different areas interacting, and being family. Being, you know, one community."
Yusor embarked on a volunteer mission to help at a dentistry clinic for Syrian refugees in Turkey and was planning another mission trip to Turkey this coming summer with Deah, who was raising money for the cause. (To donate to Deah's project for Syrian Dental Relief, click here). Her father fondly remembers, "They all volunteered in downtown Raleigh many times a year to feed the homeless and the hungry," he said. "They cooked loads of food. They came heartbroken to me to tell me how many grown men they've seen, standing in line, waiting for a bite."Yusor embarked on a volunteer mission to help at a dentistry clinic for Syrian refugees in Turkey and was planning another mission trip to Turkey this coming summer with Deah, who was raising money for the cause. (To donate to Deah's project for Syrian Dental Relief, click here). Her father fondly remembers, "They all volunteered in downtown Raleigh many times a year to feed the homeless and the hungry," he said. "They cooked loads of food. They came heartbroken to me to tell me how many grown men they've seen, standing in line, waiting for a bite."
This past November, Yusor tweeted, "The hijab is my constant reminder that we aren't living for this world. Hope we ladies can reap the rewards of this daily test. #perseverance." Her words are so eeringly relevant to those who question their decision to wear hijab after this tragedy. We're certain that if Yusor could go back, she'd continue to wear her hijab with pride and perseverance, as she put it. Yusor is certainly reaping the rewards of her test and continues to inspire even after her tragic death.
Razan, 19, Yusor's younger sister, was a sophomore at NC State, studying Architecture and Environmental Design. She was a graphic designer for the NC chapter of United Muslim Relief and was in the process of brainstorming ways to help eradicate poverty, which was her passion. She had a dream of teaching art to people who were homeless so they could sell their work and earn enough money to make a living. She was also the head of a monthly event that gathered to distribute donated food to people in need in Raleigh.
Razan was loving, kind and someone who loved to laugh. Deema Al-Ghandour, one of Razan's best friends recalls, “In middle school and high school, when you saw her smile, everyone would smile because Razan was in the room."
Another friend, Yasmine Inaya, fondly remembers, “Razan was a girl of many talents. She had a smile that could light a whole room, and her compassion and strength showed us the importance of giving back,” Inaya said. “She was the greatest friend I could ever ask for. She was loving, she was kind and she was always assuring.”
Razan helped create this incredible video along with Deah's brother, Farris Barakat, that affirmed the forward looking and hopeful mindset of Muslim students at North Carolina State University in a way that also showed the playfulness and individuality of a community often treated as monolithic by others. Her last words in the video were, "There is hope."
Be sure to like the tribute page, "Our Three Winners" on Facebook, and you can send any cards/letters of condolences to the family at the Arab American Association of New York, 7111 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209.
Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raj'ioon. To God we belong, and to Him we shall return. Bask in the comfort of one another in eternal bliss, Deah, Yusor and Razan, may Allah (S) be pleased with you all.