Reading U.S. and world news feels like rubbing sandpaper on my skin until it bleeds. Raising young kids, my tolerance level for the anger-and-hatred-filled news has gone down to nothing, but important stories still filter through—like the tragic shooting deaths last week of three outstanding Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
But I could only glance at this story of monumental heartbreak. That is, until I read the words of my wonderful friend Tisha, who lives in the Raleigh–Durham, North Carolina area.
Tisha’s kindergarten friend Saba had posted a link on Facebook to a powerful opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune, “Will Muslims ever be part and parcel of America?” In response, Tisha wrote the message below to her friend Saba, and she generously gave me permission to share it.
[Tisha’s mother, a psychiatrist and another wonderful woman, worked with Dr. Abu-Salha, the father of the two young women victims, and Tisha and her mother attended the funeral.]
I truly hope this isn’t insensitive and or inappropriate to write, but this is from my heart. My mom and I were at the funeral yesterday, and I know my life will never be the same after that experience. As I watched the thousands of girls and women walking in with their heads covered, my heart ached as I wondered how vulnerable they may feel in our society. Words cannot express how moved I have been over the past few days by the faith of the family and friends in this tragedy.
Saba, you are the first Muslim friend I had… the first experience I had with the Muslim faith. I am forever thankful for knowing you and your family because I was able to form a true understanding of the real Islam at a young age—an age when my heart was open and untainted by outside opinions. Over the years, as others may [have tried to] taint this idea of what being Muslim is, I always remembered what a beautiful family and beautiful people you and your family are. I vividly remember waiting, listening in your room above the spiral staircase in your house during sleepovers, as your family prayed together, bowing together and honoring God. I remember the feeling that filled in me as a small child. I remember sitting in your basement as you shared with me the Quran and your faith.
The person who officiated the service yesterday did an amazing job explaining the Islamic beliefs and customs and hearing the words and faith of the family members will forever be in my heart.
When this all happened, I kept asking my mom, “How can they go on? How will they cope with such devastation?” Mom kept saying she knew Dr. A’s “practicing faith,” not just faith but “practicing faith,” will carry them through this. I didn’t understand it until I witnessed it in the last few days. Dr. Abu-Sallah called mom a few hours before the funeral and told her (without her saying a word), “I know you are coming today. I know you have been praying because I feel your prayers.”
A Christian and a Muslim can pray together and for each other and respect each other, and these two doctors did just that on a regular basis. Yesterday, I saw a field full of Muslims from countries from all over the world; I saw Jewish people, Hindus, and Christians together sharing the tears and loss of three children of our community: It was remarkable to witness that.
I pray we can one day live in a world that we can truly love thy neighbor.
A simple way to show your support for the victims and find more outpourings of love is to like the Facebook page “Our Three Winners.” You’ll get sucked in by the powerful responses.