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Vigil held to honor former GPSA president Muhammad Afzaal Hussain

Mentors, colleagues and friends honored the life and legacy of graduate student Muhammad Afzaal Hussain at a vigil on Friday Oct. 28 in Kiva Hall at the University of New Mexico. The vigil comes after Hussain was killed in August of this year.

On the night of Aug. 1, 2022, while on his evening walk, Afzaal Hussain was shot near his apartment in Albuquerque by Cornell and Garfield Avenues. This happened five days after the passing of Aftab Hussein, 41, suspected to be by the hand of Muhammed Syed, 51, who the Albuquerque Police Department has since charged for the murder of both men.

The death of Hussain shook the community to the core during “a time of terror and crisis,” acccording to Dre Abeita, who was a former colleague of Hussain in the Graduate and Professional Student Association.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury reflected on her time with Hussain, saying he believed in democracy and building a more sustainable planet, as he was passionate about the environment. Hussain worked with Stansbury as one of her campaign staff and field organizers in their special election. She considered him a friend since she had met him when he was interning and doing work on the behalf of the Graduate Student Union within the legislature.

“His passions have tremendously impacted the community and the people around him,” Stansbury said.

Steve Bishop, a professor at UNM, remembered the times they shared and that Hussain “should and must inspire us”.

“I have rarely been (as) impressed with anyone in terms of work ethic, friendliness and optimism,” Bishop said.

Stansbury emphasized the impact that Afzaal Hussain had on her campaign and stressed the importance of hosting an event like the vigil.

“He was kind, funny, intelligent, and a true change-maker,” Stansbury said. “He energized the people around him and really had such a profound impact on everyone in our community, staff and on me personally. I am still mourning his loss and I am grateful to be able to be here and to hold this space with his family and community who loved and worked with him.”

Abeita called Hussain a “Lobo superhero'' and asked UNM President Garnett Stokes what her dedication is to honoring Hussain.

“When we lose them, what do we do to remember them?” Abeita said.

UNM plans to honor Afzaal Hussain’s memory and legacy by establishing the Muhammad Afzaal Hussain Scholarship with a lead gift by Sarah and Doug Brown, Chair of the UNM Board of Regents and Dean Emeritus of the UNM Anderson School of Management. It is intended to be awarded to an incoming or returning UNM international undergraduate or graduate student from the Middle East or South Asia. This scholarship can be used to pay for tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation and other miscellaneous attendance costs.

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Hussain’s father, Ali Ahmed, and his brother, Muhammad Imatiaz Hussain, plan to establish a high school in honor of Afzaal Hussain in his hometown of Hujra Shah Muqueem in Pakistan which is currently underway through the Afzaal Hussain School Fund.

The community of Española and UNM’s School of Architecture and Community Regional Planning will continue to honor his memory by incorporating his beliefs into their projects; Hussain graduated with his master’s and bachelor's degree in community and regional planning. He then went on to work as the director of planning and land use within Española.

Omar Faruk, a student at UNM, expressed that although he did not work closely with Afzaal Hussain, he’s interested in continuing the work that needs to be done within the local politics in New Mexico.

“It’s definitely something we should all be apart and aware of,” Faruk said.

More information on the Muhammad Afzaal Hussain Scholarship is available through their ImpactUNM site. More information on the Afzaal Hussain School Fund can be found on the fund’s Facebook page.

Cyrrene Giaccardo is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @dailylobo

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