Suzanne Barakat, the sister of a Muslim student killed alongside his wife and sister-in-law last year in an attack in North Carolina, challenged Donald J. Trump to meet with her after a speech in which he spoke approvingly of killing Islamic terrorists with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs.
Barakat, 28, a physician in San Francisco, said the comments and other anti-Muslim rhetoric from Trump, including a proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, have contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance that she fears could have deadly consequences.
“It allows for the Average Joe to see Muslims the way Craig Hicks saw my brother and his wife of six weeks and her sister,” she said, referring to the man who killed her relatives last February. “As ‘The Other,’ as subhuman, because of their faith.”
Trump has not responded to Barakat’s invitation for a face-to-face meeting, she said. It was delivered on Saturday via Twitter, a platform the Republican presidential candidate has frequently used to telegraph his views and to attack people, places and things that he dislikes.
“Trump speaks as if he is the authority on American Muslims,” said Barakat. “Well, if you mean it then call me up and meet with me and let’s have a chat.”
Trump made his remarks about blood-dipped bullets at a rally on Friday in South Carolina, before winning the state’s Republican primary the next day.
They came during a speech in which he repeated a questionable story told about Gen. John J. Pershing, a U.S. Army leader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pershing, Trump said, used bullets dipped in pigs’ blood to summarily execute dozens of Muslim prisoners in the Philippines, shortly after the Spanish-American War.
The story, which has circulated online for years, has been dismissed as unsupported by historical documentation or evidence by websites that fact-check Internet rumors. Trump used it to illustrate his call to push back with brutal force against both Islamic terrorism and political correctness.
“This is something you can read in the history books,” Trump told his supporters, adding, “Not a lot of history books, because they don’t like teaching it.”
According to Trump’s telling, Pershing brought an end to terrorism after he captured 50 terrorists and executed 49 of them with blood-soaked bullets. The general told the sole survivor, “‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened,’” Trump said.
Pershing used pigs’ blood, Trump said, because Muslims have “a whole thing with swine and animals and pigs, and you know the story — they don’t like them.”
The moral, Trump said, is, “We better start getting tough, and we better start getting vigilant and using our heads, or we’re not going to have a country, folks.”
Muslim-American groups reacted with horror to the remarks. Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement that Trump had “crossed the line from spreading hatred to inciting violence” in ways that placed Muslim-Americans “at risk from rogue vigilantes.”
A little more than a year ago, Barakat’s brother Deah, 23, was shot and killed at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C., alongside his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19. A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, turned himself in to police later that day.
Hicks was charged with three counts of murder, and federal authorities are investigating whether the killings constituted a hate crime. Hicks’ wife has said she believes he killed them over a dispute about parking.
In the year since their deaths, Barakat has spoken out repeatedly about the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment and met with President Barack Obama at a round table for Muslim-Americans.
Barakat said Trump’s remarks, delivered not long after the anniversary of the killings in Chapel Hill, were “a moment when I just said, ‘enough is enough.’”
“I want him to tell me to my face that he would ban someone like me if he were to become president of this country,” she said. “I want to show him pictures of Deah and Yusor and Razan and tell him about who they were and what they did. I want him to tell me to my face that I don’t belong here.”