By Saulat Pervez, February 25, 2015
Will the slayings of three North Carolina Muslims continue to unify America’s diverse population into a lasting peace?
As I sat and watched Suzanne Barakat give several interviews, talking about her brother, Deah; his wife, Yusor, and his sister-in-law, Razan, so soon after their tragic and senseless deaths in a Chapel Hill suburb on Feb. 10, I was struck by her incredible strength.

Although she was clearly mourning — she admitted oscillating between denial, numbness, and anger — she still felt a need to speak out. Her message was clear: these were brilliant and loving young people, who brought light into their families’ and friends’ lives, and constantly were serving in humanitarian causes, locally and abroad. Now, she told Anderson Cooper, she wanted “all of us as Americans to not let their deaths go in vain.”
In addition to personalizing the victims, she successfully conveyed to her fellow compatriots that the slain were exceptional Americans who should be remembered for their amazing legacies, leading Cooper to acknowledge that the loss was not just the families’ but the nation’s as well.
Visibly, the family, firmly believing that this was a hate crime, set their suffering aside to vocally share their shock so that their pain was accepted universally and the deceased were claimed not just by their minority and local community but the country as a whole.
It’s a struggle that American Muslims face today, just as many others have faced in the past, and yet others continue to till today. What will it take for neighbors, for communities, for nations to accept people who look different and to see them beyond the color of their skin, beyond the markings of religion in their appearance, beyond the bias we so readily attach to them?
When will we begin to understand that we are all humans foremost? That, no matter which faith we follow and lifestyle choices we make, we share universal values, such as integrity, love, justice, and peace? That, regardless of how dissimilar we are, all lives matter.
Truly, when the fear of the “other” continues to drive a country’s people apart, being a minority can be a burdensome responsibility. One that forces us to defend our religion every time thugs, vigilantes, and militants exploit it for their political goals. One that causes us to repeatedly assert our loyalty, patriotism, and sense of belonging to the nation we call home. One that makes us stand up, even in the first throes of grief, and speak out in order to have our tragedy and, by extension, our humanity recognized, like Suzanne Barakat bravely did.
Indeed, as a result of the storm that social media started and the national and international media picked up on, through the relentless efforts of the family and friends of the deceased, there has been an astounding outpouring of sympathy and support for the three victims and their families. Thousands of people have joined numerous vigils, upwards of 5,000 people attended their funeral prayer, and many endowments are being established in their remembrance, including the North Carolina State University’s scholarship fund to honor the victims.
Their deaths truly have been a uniting force for people of all races, ethnicities, and faiths. I only hope and pray that we, a diverse nation much like a patchwork quilt, will continue to honor their memory by humanizing and accepting one another, no matter how different we may be. That surely will be a solid contribution towards achieving peace — and a worthy legacy of our own.
saulatpervezSaulat Pervez is content editor for Why Islam, a nonprofit organization of Islamic Circle of North America dedicated to providing accurate information about Islam, dispelling common misconceptions and promoting peaceful co-existence. Contact her at For more information, call 877-WHY-ISLAM or visit
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