Posted on Feb 10, 2020
It's hard to believe it's been five years.
It's hard to think about all that has happened in this country since that awful day in North Carolina. A lot of heartache, a lot of coming together, a lot of grief and the growth of activism and pursuit of honorable work to remember the legacy of the three lovely souls we lost on this day, five years ago - Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha.
Last year the killer, Craig Hicks, was received three life sentences for the murders of Deah, his wife Yusor and Yusor's sister Razan. He was not, however, charged with hate crimes, despite the victims' families and Muslim communities across the United States pointing to Hicks' repeated loaded interactions with the victims prior to the murders as well as his social media postings as proof that it was a hate crime. Police said it was a parking space dispute.
Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha
But I don't want to focus on that now, even though it's hard not to feel bitter. For many of us the grief and pain lingers on, even this many years later. Their murders were an awful precursor to the anti-Muslim and minority-targeting rhetoric that would exponentially increase that spring in the lead up to the 2016 presidential elections. Donald Trump claimed victory, and his subsequent presidency brought increased anti-Muslim language and hate crimes (against Latinos, Muslims and other minority groups).
I remember being in Chicago visiting my very sick uncle in the hospital when the news broke. Having covered Muslims in America for nearly two decades, this horrible crime stood out to me as one that engulfed the entirety of our Muslim communities. We all claimed Deah, Yusor and Razan as ours – hardworking and fun-loving college and dental students who gave back to their communities, volunteered at dental camps in Turkey serving Syrian refugees, played basketball, goofed off with their friends and loved their families.
The Our Three Winners Foundation has worked hard in the years since to carry on their legacies by raising awareness about implicit bias and supporting the DYOR Dental Clinic, which "not only provides refugees and low-income families with emergency oral healthcare, but it also gives students a chance to work with those in need, to help build relationships and to foster inclusive and diverse communities through service."
They've also last year launched the Social Inclusion Policy Fellowship, a program in partnership with UC Berkeley's Othering and Belonging Institute and the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project to engage with current and future policymakers and raise "awareness about harmful stereotypes and narratives of minority groups ... [and] see more equitable policies and government interventions through this initiative."
This is the legacy of Deah, Yusor and Razan.
Watch this video to learn more about their extraordinary lives. And click here to support the projects and charitable work being done by the Our Three Winners Foundation. And, please remember the families of Deah, Yusor and Razan in your du'as. May Allah (S) ease their grief, shower them with mercy and grant #OurThreeWinners Jannat ul Firdaus. Ameen.