World Bulletin / News Desk
When Namee Barakat saw a stranger approaching him at the funeral for his son, Deah, daughter-in-law, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, he wasn’t sure what to think.
Nothing appeared particularly out of the ordinary. The guest looked like your average American.
Little did he know that the man had traveled half way across the country to attend the trio’s funeral, wracked by the pain of a seemingly senseless act.
Barakat discovered that the stranger was a dentist from Texas who told the grieving father that he couldn’t stop crying after he heard about what had unfolded in the small college town just southwest of Durham.
Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor, 21, and her sister Razan, 19, were allegedly gunned down by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, in a residential complex near the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on Feb. 10.
Six days later, a Durham County grand jury filed three counts of murder and one count of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling against Hicks.
An initial police investigation pointed to "an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking" as the motive behind the killings, and the FBI announced it launched a separate hate crime inquiry.
Deah Barakat and his wife were married little more than a month prior and honeymooned in Mexico. Barakat, who was studying to be a dentist, planned to travel to Turkey this summer where he and 10 dentists would provide direly needed services to refugees living in the country’s Syrian refugee camps.
“They were the most peaceful, cheerful people that you’d ever want to meet in your life,” said Deah’s father. “It was so sad to see what has happened.”
Deah’s mother, Layla, says that believing that her son is in heaven gives her comfort.
“God is wise and God did let that happen," she said. "I accept whatever good or bad (that) happens to me.”
The fatal encounter was not the first between Hicks and the people he allegedly killed in early February. He had pulled back his jacket to reveal a gun on his hip during an earlier encounter with Yusor, according to Deah’s brother, Farris.
“That is a threat. That is something they could have reported to the police. They were saying the next time Craig Hicks comes to our door, we’re going to report this to the police,” he said.
But that was not the only parking-related showdown. Farris laid out two other parking-related incidents with Hicks – one involving himself and another with Yusor’s mom.
The killings sent shockwaves across the American-Muslim community, and triggered broad speculation about whether religious hatred motivated Hicks to carry out the murders.
Farris said the prosecutor assigned to investigate potential hate crime charges is “one of the best” in the Justice Department’s hate crime division, and the Chapel Hill chief of police came, with others, “to apologize for the fact that they misspoke or misrepresented the truth in saying it is a parking dispute.”
But even more than legal recognition, the family wants the general public to recognize what unfolded as a hate crime.
“We fully believe that the justice system is doing what it needs to do,” he said. “The most important thing that I had to tell the prosecutor that I met with is that I really want this to prevent any more hate crimes. I really just want people higher up to recognize that there’s a trend here – that there’s some kind of a movement of more violence towards Muslims, and we need to protect as many people as possible. She said she recognizes that and she’s working on that.”
In an outpouring of support for the family, the funeral for the slain youths drew people of various backgrounds from across the country, including the dentist from Texas.
“They flew from all over America. We didn’t know them,” said Layla Barakat, Deah’s mother.
“People we didn’t even know just came and said, We’re here. We heard about the story. We heard how wonderful these guys are, and we’re here to give you our condolences,” added Deah’s father.
At the same time, the family doesn’t want the loss of their loved ones to raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims and instead wants this to be an opportunity to bring people together
“This incident is a hate crime as I see it, but I most fear that this will produce another hate crime. That’s my worst fear,” said Layla Barakat. “I lost my son. What I most fear is losing another son somewhere else – anybody’s son, from all nations, from all nationalities, from all religions.”
“I don’t want this story to create rage or anger. I want this story to bring everyone together,” she added.
Farris said that while Islamophobia is a “real threat” that should not be dismissed, he and the community he grew up in have been free to practice their religion without fear of persecution.
“If someone is still trying to form his or her opinion on whether Islamophobia plagues the United States, or plagues Muslims, I’d first like to mention the fact that as a Muslim born here in Raleigh, North Carolina, who went to an Islamic school, was able to practice my Islam freely and openly, and learn whatever I wished to learn about my religion, practice it however I wish to practice, there is something about the United States that can be said about literally, to me, reviving Islam in the youth,” he said.
“Let’s not play the victim card. Let’s say, hey, we’re American too,” he added.
Prosecutors said Monday that they will seek the death penalty for Hicks and a hearing will be held as early as April for them to present their evidence in front of a judge.
Deah’s mother said he has “zero feeling” toward her son’s alleged killer, stressing that “justice comes from God. I’m at peace.”Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Mart 2015, 13:45