Religion

Friend Of Slain Muslim Student Deah Barakat: ‘He Was Safer In The Conflict Zones’

Asid Khan still remembers those late nights in Palestinian territory with his friend and roommate, Deah Barakat. While Khan lifted weights in their bedroom, Barakat dribbled a basketball as the two talked about their faith and the good they would do for children the next morning as volunteer dentists.

But now his friend is dead, and Khan, 35, said he’s not sure how to process the loss of someone he considered a little brother.

“I’m still trying to get my head around it,” Khan told The Huffington Post from his home in Scotland. “It’s hard not to think about it and not get emotional. I cried when I heard the news.”

On Tuesday, 23-year-old Barakat was shot to death along with his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Abu-Salha, in their Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home. A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged after surrendering to police.

Barakat was in his second year of dentistry school at the University of North Carolina.

Khan met Barakat in 2012 during a “Muslims Without Borders” mission, where the two worked to help Palestinian children in need of dental care. Though they only spent 10 days together as roommates, their friendship quickly blossomed and continued throughout the years. When Khan was frustrated or upset, it was Barakat who made him feel better.

Barakat “would grab my beard and say, ‘Asid, I wish I had a beard like yours, but instead I have this,’ and he’d point to the stubble on his chin,” Khan said.

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Though he was the youngest of their friends, Barakat was an old soul, described by Khan as a “quiet and gentle” man who soaked up information “like a sponge.” It was those qualities that made Barakat’s work helping children in need all the more significant.

“Our patients all had different special needs, from Down syndrome to cerebral palsy,” Khan said. “All the kids were extremely nervous and had never been to the dentist before. They would come in very tense and anxious, but once Deah started speaking to them, within five minutes the kids were smiling and laughing, ready for their treatments. He had such a gentle manner and soft way of speaking to the children. He was really able to put himself in their position.”

At 4:30 a.m. every day, the two would rise and walk the deserted streets of Nablus in the West Bank together, heading to the local mosque to…

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