'A Really Powerful Witness': How Nida Allam Became NC's First Muslim Woman In Elected Office

From tragedy to advocacy to the 2020 election, behind her rise to becoming a trailblazer in NC politics with big goals.

1920x1080 Image

By Cardinal & Pine, News Partner, 11/10/2020. Retrieved from www.patch.com.

In the third week of February 2015, then NC State University senior Nida Allam had plans to get her ears pierced with her best friend and Wolfpack alumna Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21. On Tuesday, Feb. 10, Yusor's 19-year-old sister Razan rang Nida to firm up the details. 

That outing never happened. That evening, neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks shot both sisters and Yusor's newlywed husband, 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, in the couple's Chapel Hill condo. Allam waited until midnight with friends and family members in the condo parking lot for police to confirm they'd been killed.

"I was a bridesmaid in her wedding in December," Allam told Cardinal & Pine this week. "And then in February she was gone."

Hicks, who later pleaded guilty to the murders, said the shooting stemmed from a parking dispute, although many questioned whether the killings constituted a hate crime. All three victims were followers of the Muslim faith, and Hicks had been bitterly critical of Muslim people, as well as other religions, in social media posts.

Local and federal investigators said they didn't uncover enough evidence to consider it a hate crime, although many still point to the murders as part of a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and crimes.

Their extended immigrant community watched the families of the young shooting victims as they processed their children's deaths. 

"They reacted in such a humble way," Allam says today. "Seeing their strength kind of sparked it for me: We're their friends. How do we carry on their legacy? That was the one thing that their parents wanted, for their legacy not to die."

That's what put Allam on a path to a career in politics, and on Tuesday she was elected to the Durham County Board of Commissioners, becoming the first Muslim woman to hold office in North Carolina...