By Hind Al-Abadleh
(February 20, 2015) – Like everyone else, I was shocked to the core when I learned of the shooting in Chapel Hill last week that led to the heinous murder of three young, bright seekers of knowledge and peace in the world, Deah Barakat, Yusor and Razan Abu Salha.
I don’t know them personally, but I do identify with them at many levels.
I visited a friend who was completing her postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2011.
I toured the city, and took nice photos of Duke University Gardens.
I went shopping and got to meet many people.
I left the place lighthearted, with good memories, and even told my friend that I would come back to spend part of my sabbatical there.
I fell in love with the greenery, the dense lush trees and the walking and bike trails that go through them.
The visit was in May when trees in Ontario do not have much leaves yet.
I identify with these three souls that were violently forced to leave their families, friends, colleagues and us.
I’m sure many Muslims, females and males who live in North America and abroad, identify with them as well.
They were, and will continue to be, role models for generations to come.
I also hope that people, from other faith or no faith groups and people from other ethnic backgrounds, can appreciate how Islam can inspire purpose and positive change for life on this earth from a very young age.
How this religion can ground, comfort, mend and heal broken hearts experiencing the sudden and brutal loss of loved ones and life in general, here and abroad.
‘This’ could have happened to me or to any of my friends who are visibly Muslim and who choose to live alone or with friends, away or near their families.
‘This’ could have happened to any visibly Muslim person who chooses to visit family or friends.
Does that mean we now live in a time when hiding our religious identity or leaving it at the door of our homes ensures our safety and long life when going out of the house to interact with the broader community?
Maybe… I don’t know the answer.
But what I do know comes from my experience while living in the U.S. from 1999 -2005.
I was a PhD student when 9/11 happened at the University of Iowa.
The political climate was chilling – there was uncertainty, fear, open social rejection, public and official scrutiny, and profiling.
It was made worse by major media outlets fueling the flames of all the above.
These sorts of events do serve as ‘wakeup calls’ to who we are, what we stand for, and how to move forward.
What served me well during that time, and now, is to constantly remind myself of the inherent goodness in people, those I know and those I don’t; that ignorance and power in the wrong hands is the source from which all conflict arises; and that resigning from society and staying at home out of paralyzing fear will not solve anything – on the contrary, it will contribute to more of the same, proliferating till its out of control to the point of self, and societal, destruction.
As I am still processing the events in my mind and heart, I’ll share with you few quotes, lyrics of a song, and a poem that bring me profound comfort:
“The disease is real, but worry is a choice; the danger is real, but fear is a choice”
“Never hold your head down, never say you can’t, never limit yourself, and never stop believing”
“We either become prisoners of our memories or captives of our imagination” – Dr. Yassir Fazaga.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
“Failing exams or getting distinctions, losing a loved one or falling in love, each of them is going to challenge your heart. But if God is in it, know that nothing is hard. And without Him, nothing is easy” – Nusrat, U of T
“Smile like you’ve never cried, fight like you’ve never lost, love like you’ve never been hurt, and live like you’ll die tomorrow” – Tanya Bianco.
“No one dies before their predestined time” – my Mom.
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible’” – Audrey Hepburn.
The lyrics of the song performed by IL Divo, I believe in you, can be found here,
and the one-of-a-kind poem found near Imam Al-Ghazali’s head on his death bed can be found here.
Pray with me: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” – Reinhold Niebuhr.
In solidarity and peace.
[Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh is associate professor chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario].