Monday May 21, 2018
HOUSTON: Funeral prayers for Sabika Sheikh — the Karachi-born exchange student who was shot dead Friday evening in Texas during the Santa Fe massacre — were offered at a local mosque in Houston on Sunday after Namaz-e-Zuhr.
The funeral service, scheduled by the Pakistani Consulate in Houston at Sugar Land's Masjid Sabireen, was separate from the one to be held in the teenage student's hometown of Karachi, which her family, friends, and relatives will attend.
Hundreds of people, including grief-stricken families of southwestern Texas, gathered to join the funeral, including officials of the Pakistani Consulate in Houston, local members of the United States Congress, members of the Pakistani diaspora and students of Santa Fe High School.
Many of the attendees wore traditional Muslim garb, kneeled and prayed, while men lined up in rows offered traditional mourning prayers as Sheikh's coffin, draped in the green and white flag of Pakistan, was brought into a small, cramped sanctuary.
"The janaza [funeral] was packed," Afshan Jilani, a Pakistan-born human resource professional in Houston, Texas told Geo.tv via online messages. "Over 2000 attending, host family had us in tears, so much love for Sabika."
She added that the community was still processing "the shock and sadness on the killing of Pakistani exchange student".
"The interfaith community has stepped up and offered help in any possible way," she said.
Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner tweeted a message saying: "On his We must put our prayers to work, changing laws and policies to protect schools. Otherwise more children will die."
"She’s a child of the Sheikh family but she is also one of our children, including all who lost their lives," he added.
Among the attendees who came to join the funeral prayers and pay their respects to Sheikh were Houston Mayor Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman, former Pakistani minister Babar Ghauri, Houston-Karachi Sister City Association President Muhammad Saeed Sheikh, Shamim Siddiqui, as well as Consul-General Aisha Farooqui, who was accompanied by other women from the Pakistani community.
Farooqui wrote on Twitter that "tributes poured in from" Mayors Turner, Congresswoman Lee, and Sheikh's host family, while "Congressman AL Green presented the US flag as a mark of honor for Sabika and her family from the US House of Representatives".
Members of Sheikh's host family in Houston were also present.
Following the funeral, Turner said: "At the end of the day, we are all one. We may be of different faiths and nationalities, but we all bleed the same color. We all bleed red.
"Even through her death, she will be a diplomat bringing together people. She was one of our children as well as all the other children who lost their lives in the #SantaFeHighSchool shooting."
Speaking afterwards, Farooqui confirmed that the funeral prayers had been offered, and that they were en route to the airport from where Sheikh's body would be flown to Karachi.
The body was originally slated for arrival in Karachi early Tuesday morning via a foreign airline, but bad weather conditions have forced a delay of two hours at the Houston airport. The deceased's cousin Shaheera is accompanying the body.
Farooqui earlier confirmed that the consulate had received the deceased's body, which was then moved to a cold storage.
Sheikh's body was transferred to the Muslim Funeral Home in Masjid Hamza after Chief Medical Examiner Hafiz's approval.
17-year-old Sabika Sheikh was killed during the Santa Fe high school shooting on Friday, one of the 10 victims who were mostly students.
A resident of Karachi's Gulshan-e-Iqbal locality, Sheikh was studying in the US under the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme since August 21, 2017, and was due to return home next month.