Park University & Syrian student hope to rest fears

PARKVILLE, Mo. - A Syrian student studying at Park University wants to help bridge the gap between immigrants from his country and Americans who may fear ISIS.

Taher Barazi arrived at Park University in August on a full-ride scholarship for computer science. He left behind his parents, brother and sister in his hometown, war-torn Damascus.

“This is a picture of the rocket that hit our high school in Damascus, Al-Bassel High Achievers School. It was one of the moments that made me realize that I would've died and I decided to study computer science after it happened! We don't know who did it but it resulted in the death of a little girl between her teachers hands.” - Taher Barazi

 

"It was a heartbreaking thing,” said Barazi. "If I stayed there, I'm not doing anything. But if I came here I can do something with what I would learn."

Barazi, who is Muslim, said that he’s felt very welcome in his short time in Kansas City so far, but he’s also aware of the current political climate.

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"You can't say something about someone without knowing them,” he said. "ISIS are just using Islam as a tool to serve their purposes."

Park University made a great effort to find a Syrian student they could give a scholarship to. Steve Youngblood, associate professor and Barazi’s sponsor, said they selected Barazi not only to show inclusion, but because he was well deserving.

"Anyone who's come across Taher realizes that he has the highest character,” said Youngblood. "We want to judge people as individuals, not to generalize, not to imagine that Muslims are some kind of monolith, that they all think and act the same way."

However, Youngblood said many of his Muslim students approached him with great concerns following the presidential election. President-elect Donald Trump had previously promised during his campaign to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

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"I want to be nice to you. I want to be your friend. I don't care what your religion is,” said Barazi. "We've got to think about how to improve the world and we can't do that if we're in war."

According to the FBI, possible religious hate crimes jumped 60 percent in Kansas City, Missouri from 2014 to 2015.

Barazi is hoping that the support he is receiving at Park University continues to spread as much as his positive outlook on America.

"In Syria, some people said the United States doesn't want Syrians there, but this time they proved they're wrong, and here I am,” he said.

Barazi’s student visa expires in three and a half years following his graduation. He then plans to return to Damascus, Syria where he hopes to make a positive impact in his community. 

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Josh Helmuth can be reached at josh.helmuth@kshb.com

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