The Air We Breathe Is the Same Air


Over 5,000 solemn people packed the funeral of three young Muslim students murdered in Chapel Hill, where Dr. Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha, who lost his daughters, said "these children were executed with shots in the head" and urged the crowd to  "stand up" against hate.

"When we say this was a hate crime it is all about protecting all other children in the USA...about making this country that they loved, where they lived and died, peaceful for everybody else....All honest Americans, they’re all here - white and black, and all colors and shapes. So let’s stand up - real and honest - and see what these three children were martyred about. It was not about a parking spot.”

Because of the large numbers, the funeral was held at a N.C. State University soccer field, where mourners knelt and prayed, their heads on the ground. Abu-Salha spoke before three caskets - gray, white, silver - holding Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his newlywed wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. He said his older daughter had just celebrated "a wedding in heaven" and his younger daughter was "a breeze...she walked on this earth lighter than air."

Hours after the funeral, the FBI announced it was opening a preliminary parallel inquiry to determine if federal hate laws had been violated. The three were shot and killed by Craig Stephen Hicks, an out-of-control, gun-freak neighbor who has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

The killings have prompted an outpouring of grief and support - dwarfing the occasional online toxicity - for the three promising young people and their families, the Muslim community, and the humanitarian causes for which the students worked, with Muslim organizations urging people to carry on "their legacy of love." Most poignantly, they have. They have begun online campaigns - #MuslimLivesMatter#ChapelHillShootings,#OurThreeWinners, and #FeedTheirLegacy, which is distributing food to the hungry inmemory of the victims. They have written powerful pieces about the need to go on working together and loving each other. And donations have poured into a project by Barakat to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey. His original goal for the project was $20,000; in a grievously bittersweet irony, it has now raised over $280,000.

Deah's young brother

Yusor dancing with her father at her wedding six weeks ago

This story was originally published Common Dreams.

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