A few weeks after it was posted online, Suzanne Barakat’s TED talk about the slayings of her brother, his wife and his wife’s sister had drawn more than 200,000 viewers. Now that the physician has gotten that attention, she is likely to achieve her goal, at least on some level, of making more people aware of the real dangers to Muslims in this country brought by prejudice and the futility of that prejudice.
Barakat’s brother, Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and sister-in-law, Razan Abu-Salha, were shot to death in Chapel Hill in 2015. Barakat and his wife were aiming for careers in dentistry through UNC-Chapel Hill and his wife’s sister was an N.C. State student (all were connected with NCSU). A neighbor, Craig Hicks, was charged in the deaths.
Suzanne Barakat’s speech was recorded in San Francisco a month ago.
She gave gruesome details of the slayings of her brother, his wife and her sister. She believes it was not a dispute over a parking place in an apartment group that prompted the shootings, but Islamophobia. She noted in her talk that in this election year, candidate and now president-elect Donald Trump targeted Muslims for criticism and even at one point argued that Muslims should be prohibited from entering the country for a time and that those who are here be registered.
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That kind of attitude most surely contributed to what the FBI showed in a report was a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. It was the most in 15 years.
Said Barakat: “It is no coincidence that hate crimes rise in parallel with election cycles.”
In measured tones, bowing her head on occasion to calm herself, particularly after sharing fond, affectionate memories of her brother and his wife, Barakat appealed for understanding as she shared numerous stories of Muslim women having their head scarves criticized, of even patients in the hospital commenting on such things to her, and how it bothered her that no colleague spoke up for her.
Indeed, she feels, she said, as if it’s almost accepted that Muslims will simply have to endure such things.
“We just have to put up with it and smile,” she said. “The nasty stares, the palpable fear when boarding a plane, the random patdowns at airports that happen 99 percent of the time.”
Suzanne Barakat is soft spoken. There is no bombast in her. But there is power in her words. Toward the end of her talk, she told her audience, “Reach out to them (Muslims in the community). Let them know you stand with them in solidarity. It may feel really small, but I promise you, it will make a difference.”