Chapel Hill Shooting: Slain Newlywed Talked About Growing Up Muslim in America

PHOTO: Yusor Mohammad is seen in this undated Facebook file photo. PlayOur Three Winners/Facebook
WATCH Remembering the Young Muslim Family Gunned Down in Chapel Hill

A newlywed killed on Tuesday near University of North Carolina considered growing up in America as a “blessing,” according to a newly released interview from the public radio station WUNC.

Months before she was shot and killed, Yusor Mohammad, 21, gave an interview where she talked about growing up Muslim in America and what she learned from her Muslim elementary school teacher.

Mohammad was shot to death Tuesday alongside her husband and sister in her home near the University of North Carolina. The police said their preliminary investigation indicates the murders stemmed from a parking dispute. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has asked law enforcement to consider if the motive was anti-Muslim bias, since all three victims were Muslim.

Today WUNC released an interview with Yusor Mohammad conducted with her former elementary school teacher, Mussarat Jabeen, for the StoryCorps, an oral history project that aims to create an archive of interviews for future generations.

“Growing up in America has been such a blessing and you know although in some ways I do stand out such as the hijab I wear on my head, the head covering,” Mohammad told her teacher in the interview. “There’s still so many ways that I feel so embedded in the fabric that is our culture.”

In the lengthy interview Mohammad and Jabeen talked about the “beauty” of inclusion and tolerance they saw in their community.

“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,” said Mohammad. “But here we’re all one, one culture.”

PHOTO: Deah Barakat, left, Yusor Mohammad, center, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, right, are seen in this undated Facebook file photo. Our Three Winners/Facebook
Deah Barakat, left, Yusor Mohammad, center, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, right, are seen in this undated Facebook file photo. 

Mohammad also recalled an important lesson her Jabeen taught her when she was in the third grade. When she asked for something, Jabeen told her she should not try to take, but instead held her hand out in a giving gesture.

“So give don’t take, be less selfish and giving open, compassionate, caring,” said Mohammad of the lesson.

When Mohammad asked her former teacher what is the one thing Jabeen would tell the world, the teacher answered with “peace.”

“Live in peace…that’s what I would say,” said Jabeen. “Make this world a place where everybody has the right to live and we don’t fight over our differences but learn to accept our differences and learn how we can make this world a better place to live keeping our differences aside and focusing on our similarities.”

In a new interview today on WUNC’s show “The State of Things” Jabeen said she wanted to tell Mohammad’s story to honor her and her husband, who was also a student at Jabeen’s school.

“I keep referring to them as children because they are my children,” Jabeen told WUNC. “I just kept thinking about it 'What can I do?' They are the ones who have taught me to be stronger and I have learned to be stronger just because of their faith in who they are and what they want to contribute to the world.”

The deaths have led to an outpouring of support for a fundraising project started by Mohammad’s husband Deah Barakat. The dental student had aimed to raise $20,000 to help fund clinics for the Syrian American Medical Society. Three days after Barakat’s death the project has raised $246,426, more than 10 times the original goal.