EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Members of the Islamic Center of East Lansing are remembering one of their own – a former MSU Fellow who was killed in Gaza.

Tariq Thabet and 15 members of his family died when the apartment they lived in was bombed in Gaza, during the ongoing war.

Friends and colleagues tell 6 News they are devastated by the death. “It came as a shock to me, nevertheless,” says Thasin Sardar, a trustee at the Islamic Center of East Lansing. “I thought he was going to be safe.”

Sardar says as news proliferated in the growing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, he found himself thinking of Tabet and his family regularly. He also reflected on the man’s time in East Lansing as a student at Michigan State University.

“We met Tariq in late summer of 2021. He came here to the United States as a Humphrey Fellow through a scholarship at Michigan State University. It was a one-year program and as Muslim, he came to the Islamic Center to partake in prayers as well,” he says. 

From their time in worship, Sardar recalls Thabet’s resilience most vividly.

“He came from a place that was already under siege by Israel. Despite the hardship he always had an upbeat attitude to life,” Sardar says.

As the conflict grew, Sardar says he had high hopes Thabet and his family would remain out of harm’s way.

“He was in Central Gaza which is supposed to be a safe area, but there is no safe place in the entire Gaza Strip,” Sardar says. 

Sardar is not alone in mourning Thabet.

Anna Prodlesna was part of the cohorts of fellows in which Thabet participated. She says he was committed to education.

“Yes he missed his family a lot but he took his stay here very seriously and he wanted to help the community back in Gaza in the field he was actually working in,” says Prodlesna. 

She says she and other members of the group became close friends. They were in contact with Thabet just days before he, his wife, children, parents and other members of his family were killed.
“He texted us that he and his family were safe and appreciated our concerns,” she tells 6 News, “and wanted to stay in touch regardless the circumstances.”

She says when the program ended last year, Thabet was able to arrive home in Gaza for his son’s birthday. He served as a Humphrey Fellow. The Humprey Fellowship Program said in a statement that Thabet’s goal was to leverage his new knowledge, relationships and experiences to improve the local economy in Gaza.