Friendship in the Face of Terrorisim
"Even when everything was on the line, he couldn’t stray from his values."
On the evening of July 1, 2016, armed militants stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery. Survivors said gunmen separated local Muslims from foreigners and non-Muslims and released some Bengalis. They released a group of women wearing hijabs; however, they would not release the women dressed in Western clothing, including Hossain’s close friend and fellow Oxford College of Emory University student Abinta Kabir and Tarishi Jain, a student from the University of California Berkeley. Presumably because he was from Bangladesh and a Muslim, Hossain was given an opportunity to leave the café. When he refused, the assailants struck Hossain. Injured and bleeding, the young man — whom many described as gentle, kind and humble — refused again. He fought them till his last breath as a blade left deep wounds on his right hand.
Hossain’s mother, Simeen, and brother, Zaraif — who were waiting outside the café in horror — anticipated he would never leave his friends alone — even if it cost him his life.
“His mother thought he wouldn’t come out alone, and she was right,” Hossain’s best friend and recent Goizueta graduate Zanir Malani 16Ox 18BBA said, recalling Zaraif’s recount of that day. “She knew he wouldn’t leave them. Even though I knew Faraaz was an exceptionally resilient person, I still cannot fathom the strength that he had. I don’t know that others could confidently say that they would do the same. I think that speaks to his character. Even when everything was on the line, he couldn’t stray from his values.”
Hossain and Malani were first-year roommates at Oxford College. They had planned to live together the following two years along with Malani’s twin brother, Uzair. The brothers had even signed a lease with Hossain and moved furniture into their new apartment.
“His mom, brother and family helped us over the summer to move everything into the new place,” Malani recalls. “Faraaz’s bed and furnishings were there. We went home for the summer and everything was planned.”
Then the attack happened.
“As a mother, I know and live with the belief that my son Faraaz has made me prouder than I could have ever imagined.”
“Faraaz had exceptional grades and describing him as hard-working would be an understatement,” Malani said. “He’d always dreamed of greatness. He always wanted to be like his mother and his grandfather.
“He’d always aspired to be great. He was on track in this world for that. In the end, he surpassed his potential and outdid his dreams.”
Hossain was recognized by Emory and throughout the international community for his bravery. As a part of its class gift, the 2017 Oxford College Student Gift Committee voted to name a room in Oxford’s Candler Hall the Hossain-Kabir Room to honor the fallen students’ memory. In 2018, Goizueta Business School recognized Hossain and renamed the Core Values award in his honor.
Hossain received the 2016 Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice. Previous honorees include Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. At the event, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, ex-chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, exemplified Hossain’s character by stating that “it was the mother that built into him the love for humanity. This is the upbringing. And I think we all, not only in India but in the whole world, are proud of that mother.”
Pepsico instituted the Faraaz Hossain Courage Award in 2016, an initiative to recognize exceptional acts of courage among the youth of Bangladesh each year for the next 20 years. Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of Pepsico paid a heartfelt tribute to Hossain during the first Faraaz Hossain Courage Award, saying “that night, Faraaz refused to be defined as a Bengali. He refused to be defined as a Muslim. That night, Faraaz insisted on being defined a friend, as a human being.”
In July 2016 the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide (GARIWO), a nonprofit organization based in Italy that aims to prevent cases of genocide and crimes against humanity, inducted Hossain in the Italian Embassy in Tunis, among five other “righteous” individuals. On March 6, 2018, the European Day of the Righteous, the students of Rummo High School along with GARIWO accepted Hossain as “the first Righteous” and planted a tree in his name on their campus.
"In the end, he surpassed his potential and outdid his dreams.”
“As a mother, I know and live with the belief that my son Faraaz has made me prouder than I could have ever imagined,” Simeen said. “He also left behind a legacy of courage, friendship and humanity.”
“The example of Faraaz will be the reference point of our consciousness as humans, who are always able to find a way out, even if the choice could cost us our lives,” GARIWO representative Enza Nunziato said.
The Garden of the Righteous — a commemorative garden with trees and memorial stones — is dedicated to righteous Arabs and Muslims who risked their lives and stood up against terrorism in the name of “jihad.” Hossain is the only non-Arab Muslim to be inducted into the Garden.
“When I am in the midst of a dilemma, a moral dilemma, I now ask myself, ‘what would Faraaz have done, in that situation? Does this pass the Faraaz test?’” said Sanjeev Chadha, then the CEO of Pepsico Asia Middle-East and North Africa.
“Anyone who met him would describe Faraaz as one of the sweetest, most gentle and loving people in the world,” Malani recalls. “He could do no harm to anyone. He was the most beautiful person I have ever met.”