After His Brother Was Killed, This Muslim Man Is Fighting Back With Peaceful Education
On the evening of Feb. 10, Craig Stephen Hicks shot and killed three innocent and unarmed Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They were 23-year-old Deah Barakat, of Syrian decent, and his 21-year old wife and her 19-year-old sister, Yusor and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, of Palestinian decent.
Instead of seeking retribution, Barakat's family is fighting brutality with compassion and is in the process of converting Deah's house into a community center, as explained in an Associated Press video published on Tuesday.
Called the Light House, the community center is focused on fostering social entrepreneurship and, chiefly, educating people about Islam.
"Reclaiming the Muslim American narrative" is the message emblazoned across the organization's homepage.
Deah was known for his social activism and charity work, helping those in need from Syria to the United States. It was his generous spirit that galvanized his family into creating this center, they said.
Hicks, charged with murder, still awaits trial, but both families of the slain have redirected their attention towards the Light House Project.
"We called it the Light House because my brother's name in Arabic, Deah, means 'light,'" Farris Barakat explains in the AP video.
Hicks has not been charged with a hate crime, though the family feels certain it was motivated by the three young students' faith — a conspicuous part of their identity, as both young women wore hijabs.
"We have no doubt why they died," Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor and Razan father, told CNN in an interview, the New Yorker reports.
"We are not seeking any revenge," Abu-Salha continued. "Our children are much more valuable than any revenge. When we say that this was a hate crime, it's all about protecting all other children in the U.S.A. — it is all about making this country that they loved and where they lived and died peaceful for everybody else. We need to identify things as they really are."
The Light House Project's initiative to help normalize and demystify Islam, comes at a time of swelling Islamophobia. ISIS' tenuous links to the Dec. 2 San Bernardino shooting served to intensify the problem. And GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's Dec. 6 announcement that he would mandate a "total and complete shutdown" on Muslims attempting to enter the U.S. made the problem even worse.
"We're not different, we're not scary, we're not 'the other' and I think people should see that," Farris Barakat tells AP.
Watch the AP video in full below: