Disturbing Video: Happy British Muslims! (Halal Version)

When the original version of this video came out, I was excited, overjoyed, and yes Happy. I was proud to see Muslims standing up, and in a peaceful, non-confrontational way, show the world that we aren’t so different from any other human on the planet. Many people agreed and the video went viral. I was delighted seeing the praise from all corners of the internet from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, who were excited seeing Muslims behave in a way never seen in the media. So naturally, since many people loved it, there should be no surprise that backlash from Muslims who just couldn’t stand the sight of Muslim women being Happy on video for the whole world to see was soon to follow!

It would have been better to ignore the Muslim element who seem hell bent on validating every Muslim stereotype that exists, which ironically this video brilliantly helped begin to break down, but what’s disheartening and disturbing is that someone felt the need to create a so-called “Halal Version”. I’m taken back to over a decade ago when I accepted Islam after the tragic events of 9/11 and the conviction I had in knowing that deep down this beautiful religion couldn’t possibly be responsible for the atrocities committed that day. I remember the rose-colored glasses I wore for many years thereafter, writing off those who would make any and everything Haram that most shrugged their shoulders at. I remember almost pleading with myself that the haters were a figment of my imagination. However, this video and the “reason” behind it’s creation, makes me further understand why I smashed those glasses so long ago. 

Watching the video, it doesn’t take long to see what is wrong with this version. One barely has to reach the 30 second mark to ask themselves “are there no women in Islam?” or better yet, “are there no Happy women in Islam?” After watching this video, I can conclude that the answer is yes in both cases, at least in the eyes and minds of those who were offended by the original version of this video. To those sad individuals, women do not exist, they’re only a sub-species to males that are used for specific purposes and whether or not they are happy is irrelevant. Then again, when you look at the prayer areas in many mosques set-up for women, those beliefs are obvious. Maybe I’m having difficultly seeing the original version of the video as Haram because I live in a society where women are considered equal. Maybe I’m having difficulty seeing the original version of the video as Haram because I come from a Black American culture, where women play important and dominant roles. Maybe it’s just me.

However, I offer up a solution to all those holier than thou types who made created this crap: Maybe you should ask for a country of your own devoid of women. Don’t have internet, television, or any outside communication with the world whatsoever and leave us Kuffar to be Happy in our sin!  لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ

Fort Hood Déjà Vu

5 years ago I was stuck in traffic, trying to get home to my wife and children after a long day in the office, when I heard on the radio that there had been a mass shooting in Ft. Hood. I remember my initial reaction that I later regretted as selfish, was “please God don’t don’t let the killer be Muslim”. Now 5 years later, I find myself in the same awkward position as I was then. Though I despise myself for the thought, I still find myself filled with anxiety, pleading with God to not let the killer turn out to be a Muslim this time.

As self serving as it may seem, I know I am not alone in this request. Many American Muslims are wondering either aloud or deep within themselves what tomorrow will bring if it is revealed that a Muslim is behind yet another tragic shooting in Ft. Hood. We worry about our personal safety and that of our children, we wonder about the potential harassment or worse at school, or the odd stares and whispers at work, and we wonder most of all, if tomorrow our status as Americans will have been reduced to nothing more than potential terrorists. Already we have Right-Wing media personalities like Patrick Dollard, threatening and encouraging others to slaughter every Muslim in America if the shooter turns out to be a Muslim.

These thoughts and fears are real, and yet I still can’t help but despise my initial thoughts and even the butterflies that currently war within my stomach. As an American and a veteran who’s served this nation in one capacity or another since the age of 17, it’s a really big pill to swallow knowing that more than any other group, the safety of me and my family, could seriously be compromised, merely because we happen to claim the same religion as a killer. As a parent, I wonder what do I tell my children who still remember the profound sadness dad felt after a grueling day filled with interviews explaining our faith to skeptics in November 2009.

How do I share with them now that they are older and some near college age, that their father, who still has his Marine Dress Blues hanging in the closet, is afraid of what his fellow Americans might do to others who share our faith? It’s a perplexing suite of emotions that currently flow through my veins and the sad part is the one emotion that should be at the forefront of my mind as well as many other Americans is not. While we all anticipate the verdict of whether or not this Soldier, this killer, is or isn’t a Muslim, there are people grieving in Texas right now, who’ve lost loved ones, are praying for recovery, and thanking God for life right now. Heroes and their families have had to endure an evening of terror and pain that will not go away anytime soon, and unfortunately in the comfort of my DC area home, while I send my prayers and condolences to the victims and their families, the ugliness behind the Muslim question persists…

The Images We Present To America As Muslims

Dear Muslims: I personally do not believe perceptions will change in America until we help our fellow non-Muslim Americans to see our community through the prism that I and many others do at least on the surface. When Americans hear “American Muslim” and the images they conjure up happen to be African American or Caucasian American faces instead of South East Asian or Arab faces, i.e. images they can relate to versus images they automatically view as foreign, then through the magic of psychology and sociology they will not view our communities as this “foreign” thing that came from overseas after 9/11 or a few decades ago, but instead a vibrant, diverse community that’s been in existence well before this country was even called the United States of America. Yes we know it’s regrettable, yes we know it’s sad, yes we know I might even be messed up for saying it, but seriously if we took a step back, we might be willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, we ourselves as a community are helping to fuel the stereotypes, when every time there is a discussion about Islam in America the only faces we put out there to represent us, just happen to be South East Asian or Arab. Nope I don’t have a degree in PR or Marketing, but I have this feeling that if Americans heard Islam and thought more along the lines of Muhammad Ali, WD Muhummad, Hamza Yusuf, Yusuf Estes, etc. instead of this or that brother or sister who has relatives in Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, etc….nevermind, ignore me, I’m just a little off. But having lived in the North and the South, having grew up in a different religion, and knowing only about 2 or 3 things, I know if I were a non-Muslim American and every time I turned on TV to hear someone talk about how great and nice Islam and Muslims are and the “Muslim Representative” was Arab or Pakistani, I’d probably roll my eyes and think foreign, but if the guy happened to be a white guy from California or a black guy from Philly, ok maybe not Philly (just joking), but seriously if our image was more Mos Def than Ahmed from Cairo, we’d get somewhere.

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My Thoughts On The (Fake) War On Christmas

Like many Americans, I’m getting tired of the annual Right-Wing based pity party concerning Christmas. Every year talking heads, pundits, and Joe six-pack America regale us with horror stories about how businesses, organizations, and even other Americans are no longer saying “Merry Christmas” and opting for “Happy Holidays” instead, because we all know that the ONLY holiday worthy of mention this time of year is Christmas. Never mind that Jewish, Islamic, Pagan, and other faith traditions’ holidays sometimes occur this time of year, the only one worthy of mention is the Christian one. As far as the Right is concerned, non-Christian Americans can take a long walk off a short pier this time of year, as there can only be one….Holiday that is.

As such, each and every freaking year since the Right realized that the country was getting more and more diverse, we’ve had to endure this or that manufactured controversy involving the helpless Christian majority in this 75 percent Christian majority country. Never mind that television, stores, companies, the media, and others constantly bombard Americans, regardless of their faith or beliefs, with imagery promoting Christmas, we are told that there is a war against Christmas and that it’s so important that if we don’t pay attention Christmas could disappear and be lost forever!

Now those Americans with an ounce of common sense and more than a third grade education see this madness as the foolishness that it is, but onward Christmas warriors they march, with ugly sweaters and eggnog in tow anyway!

Usually I ignore these fanciful tales of Christmas vanishing and laugh at the headlines from this or that darling of the Right as I watch A Christmas Story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the many variations of A Christmas Carol for the gazillionth time. Even as I browse circular after circular and ad after ad promoting this or that Christmas sale with the ever constant reminder of how many days I have left until Christmas, I marvel at the ability of some to actually proclaim that there is such a war. When we get to the point where we are now debating the skin color of the imaginary good ole, jolly Saint Nick, however, somebody should pull the plug on crazy and admit we have truly entered silly season.

As a Muslim American and a parent, I find it extremely difficult to sympathize with those of you who truly believe there is a war on Christmas. Give me a break! The day you have to converse with your children why you don’t celebrate someone else’s holiday regularly for an entire month year in and out, then you can talk to me about difficulty and wars this holiday season. When you are constantly asked over and over by strangers, co-workers, and other well meaning people about your Christmas shopping, wishes, plans, etc. or asking your children in front of you what they hope Santa gets them, even though you didn’t offer to be part of the conversation and the questions are asked with the assumption that everyone must celebrate, then you might have a bone to pick with someone. But to whine every year and then to start with this Santa crap while your holiday is force fed down every American’s throat regardless of their beliefs or thoughts on the matter, makes these Christmas crusaders worse than the Grinch himself because they’re stealing the joy out of an otherwise pleasant experience.

That said, Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, does it really matter? We all know that in America Christmas is king anyway and we all know what Holiday people are wishing others to be happy on. It sure as heck isn’t Kwanza!

Santa is white….that’s the allegation and the “debate” thanks to one of Fox’s own, surprise, surprise, and guess what? Santa isn’t real and I thought he was supposed to be an elf anyway? So maybe he’s green?

Now what really IS interesting this year during the latest salvo in this decades long “war” is the “other” controversy our friend at Fox, Megyn Kelly brought up and that the media has seemed to run away from like the plague. It was her comments about someone who isn’t a made up character at all (well to many anyway).

Megyn Kelly not only proclaimed from her high throne of ignorance in the ivory Fox tower that Santa was white and we should accept this, she also said that Jesus, you know the guy for whom the Christ part in Christmas is named, is also white and we should just deal with this as “fact”. OK, I can give her a pass on the Santa comment more or less, because I don’t really care that deeply about fictional elves who catch all the Black Friday and Christmas sales in order to go through the trouble doing mom and dad a solid on Christmas Eve delivering all those purchases to all the good little Christian boys and girls one night on their super, Hemi and reindeer powered sled.

However, concerning Jesus the Christ, I find it remarkable that not only in this day and age with all the technology we have at our finger tips that people still believe Jesus likely resembled a Woodstock attendee, but that no one including the media has the guts in 2013, to correct this error or at a minimum, have a real discussion on the this whole Jesus is white myth. It would be comical if it weren’t so sad, because it’s so painfully obvious how the entire media is at simultaneously mocking Megyn Kelly’s Santa comments and making it a thing, but going out their way to not touch the Jesus remarks with a 10 foot pole. I wonder why?

Could it be that the real issue with Megyn Kelly’s comments were that in this supposed new America that her remarks wreaked of arrogance, ignorance, and white supremacy? Maybe her comments hit America’s faux post-racial nerve center and was just real enough to remind us that the ugliness of racial supremacy even with something as silly as Santa is real, alive, and ready to kick us in our collective jugular at a moments notice? I wager that is what happened and why this Santa “controversy” is a thing now. Megyn Kelly dared vocalize what many in America feel and it had to be stopped, ridiculed, and minimized immediately. They even got her to pretend it was a joke and not to be taken seriously. It was a joke alright, an inside joke.

But why I ask again was Jesus ignored? Maybe it was because Jesus is always ignored during Christmas, I mean let’s be honest, outside of a few songs and the few people who still go to church on Christmas, most Americans only care about the stuff they get, food, and parties. Most American children know more about Santa, his elves, reindeer, and Frosty than they do about Jesus and the whole reason such a holiday even exists, and no it’s not to see if you’ve got a new iPhone or XBox One under the tree. I don’t happen think it was the usual reasons that the Jesus portion of her comments were ignored though. I believe they were ignored because if the media had the courage they would actually ignite a war on Christmas and it wouldn’t be one dealing with trivial matters concerning fat guys in red suits, but with the hearts and minds of Americans and many in the West in general.

Talking too much about Jesus this time of year in general, would force people to look at their decadent behavior and for the actual Christians, remind them of how far they have fallen from the true teachings of Jesus and the entire reason the holiday was placed on top of a pagan holiday in the first place: to celebrate Christ’s birth, life, ministry, teachings, etc. and to ultimately call more people into belief of that religion. However, most now worship trees, lights, and stuff. So if the media talked about Jesus too much during Christmas, they’d have to answer to their corporate sponsors who don’t want people practicing their religion and giving their cash to the church, charities, and the poor. All that perfectly good cash in their minds would be better served in the pockets of the wealthy so they can use it to buy their families luxurious gifts instead. Ironic isn’t it?

Furthermore, all that Jesus talk especially about his race would call into question why he was made to look like a white guy in the first place and then we’d have to trudge up all that ugly history and who wants to talk about oppression, slavery, white supremacy, and other atrocities, when there’s so many sales and Christmas parties to go to? I mean if we had to acknowledge that there’s no way in the world Jesus was white, then we’d have to talk about why those in power felt it was important to make him white, then we’d have to talk about religion overall, and how rampant this concept of everything good and holy being painted white is a thing and has been for centuries. Also we might have to discuss why in 2013 with all our information, we persist in the same old falsehood of portraying Jesus as a white guy in images, film, and television when we should know better and do the right thing. In other words we’d have some serious explaining and talking to do and who wants to do that when we can get a bunch of things we don’t need, get drunk, and have a good time?

Merry Christmas I guess…

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What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? I didn’t have a strong opinion on the various controversies surrounding sports naming conventions until this morning. Listening to CSPAN as I drove into work, I realized how silly and in a way stubborn many are being when it comes to the names and imagery present in certain sports franchises. The question on CSPAN this morning, was “Is the Washington Redskins name offensive”, and at first glance, one might say no, as there is nothing inherently offensive when you hear that term, maybe. However, when you dig just a little deeper and you learn the history of this racial slur, combined with the imagery of what is supposed to be a Native American male with with dark, red skin, large nose, etc. how one defends this term and imagery under the guise of “tradition” or “history” baffles the mind.

I find it ironic that in this debate about imagery and names that the staunchest defenders of it’s continued usage often cite history and tradition as the main reason for their support, when the actual issue is the history and tradition behind these naming conventions. Where did this term “Redskin” come from? Where did this stereotypical imagery of a man with redskin, large nose, or big, wide, grin as is the case with the Cleveland Indians come from? To deny the racial and stereotypical bigotry and history behind this is amazing the more I listen and read the various comments of those against changing the name. We know for a fact that the term redskin was used not only as a descriptor of an entire people but also to refer to the very real and evil history where Native American scalps were used as a form of currency for trade. We also know that the era in which these names and images were adopted and considered appropriate to name one’s team after, was an era where using imagery and racial slurs toward minority groups was an accepted behavior. So when people defend the name Washington Redskins should we assume that supporters are a bunch of bigots not worthy of being considered part of the human race?

Of course, that is an extreme position for one to take, but is it anymore extreme than an opinion that essentially says that it’s perfectly OK to support a racial slur and iconography that mocks the physical and racial characteristics of Native Americans? What’s even more insane to me as a Black man, is listening to and hearing all the Black and other minority supporters who refer to the opponents of this name as silly, too PC, or call the debate ridiculous. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. In my experience, when it comes to racial debates, Black people can be some of the biggest hypocrites. This issue, especially concerning the Washington Redskins, where many of the fans are Black, is both surprising and typical all at the same time. A young, Black woman called into CSPAN this morning, after a caller to the Native American phone line finished describing how her grandfather would cry every time he heard the name redskin, and offered the comment that we all need to grow up as it’s not that serious. I gripped my steering wheel tight and fought not to scream angry a that ignorance this admitted Washington Redskin fan displayed.

Racist-pickaninnyImagine if there was a team called the Pickaninnies or the Sambos complete with logos of children with black skin, big white eyes, and big red lips. Can you seriously imagine a team called the Charlotte Pickaninnies in 2013? Maybe in 1932 like when the Redskins were established, but in 2013? Heck no! If there were a team that somehow survived the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s, decades when we supposedly became more enlightened when it comes to diversity, yet still existed and their names and logo’s were defended due to tradition or history, Al Sharpton, the NAACP, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, and a score of others would be ready to do another March On Washington to stop it. Black people all across the country would be marching, protesting, and giving their support, and any non-Black who supported the team would be labeled a racist outright. Yet, here in the DC area, plenty of Black Redskins fans eagerly support and defend this mockery of another race without question and outright hostility in some cases.

What I guess I don’t get, is why is this so difficult an issue to understand? You have an entire people that were victims of genocide. Their lands were stolen, people oppressed, and their culture, ethnicity, and race openly mocked even today. All they are asking is that in the modern era that we recognize that they like African Americans, Chinese Americans, Arab Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian Americans, etc. deserve the same respect and decency afforded these groups. A decency and respect that recognizes that it is not OK to use racial slurs and imagery that mocks one’s racial identity in popular culture. It’s not like it’s impossible to change the name and iconography of a team. Let us also remember that terminology changes over time as well. Even “IF” the term redskin was ever acceptable even in the 30′s and it’s disgusting iconography, it sure as heck isn’t today. You would no more walk up to a Native American and call him or her a redskin, than you would call a Black person a Negro and in the case of the latter even Blacks used to call ourselves that.

So why hold on to the racist cultural heritage of America’s yesteryear? Will the team earn less touchdowns, miss more field goals, throw more incomplete passes, and never make it to the Super Bowl if they no longer identify themselves by the scalps of slaughtered Native Americans and mock their racial identity? As a people, an American people, whether we are a melting pot or a garden salad, we are all in this together. Part of recognizing our shared hopes, dreams, struggles, pains, and aspirations is accepting that respect and common decency should be paramount when dealing with one another. Ignoring one group’s pain so we can wear our favorite team’s colors, is the direct opposite of who we are supposed to be as a people.

Let’s Stop Calling Them Muslims

646551bdfec61b1f3e0f6a706700c3edThere are roughly 60 or more so-called Muslim countries. Some estimates say there are about 1.5 Billion people who claim to be Muslim. When I converted to Islam shortly after September 11, 2001 and no the irony isn’t lost on me, I learned that even though it took a horrific terrorist attack on my country to get me to study Islam, the religion in of itself is peaceful. I learned that Muslims are supposed to be defined by their excellence of character as a virtue of the blessings inherent in submitting to the will of The Creator. That means that Muslims are supposed to be honest and trustworthy, help those who can’t help themselves, be a defender to the defenseless, stand up for what is right, and never be the cause of enmity, strife or injustice in the world. Muslims are supposed to respect and protect the places where God’s name is remembered and praised whether it is a Church, Synagogue, Temple, or Mosque. Muslims are supposed to be those in whom all neighbors whether they are Muslim or not, feel safe and protected. These were the lessons I learned in 2001 soon after those calling themselves Muslim did the complete opposite in their attacks on America in New York and Washington, DC.

The lessons of what it means to be a Muslim and the virtues that are supposed to be apparent in every Muslim is and has been continually repeated and taught to me over these past 12 years and though I have no doubt in the teachings of Islam, I’m beginning to wonder that maybe just maybe those who share my understanding of what Islam is are not the same as those who are the leaders of Muslim countries, many of the citizenry, and of course the Al-Qaeda and other affiliated terrorist groups. Maybe what separates us is more than language, theological understandings, or geography. Maybe the very fundamental beliefs about what comprises a Muslim and what does not is our distinguishing factor and I for one feel that it’s time to either stop calling those who would destroy museums, cities, and priceless artifacts, those who would attack civilians and kill people while they shop or worship, those who have no respect for the decency of every human being to live the life God gave them in peace, maybe it’s time to stop calling these savages Muslim or let them have the word and those of us who know Islam take on a different name.

How much longer can we Muslims sit back and issue our condemnations, write our apologies, and wring our hands in frustration as we watch entire populations and people under siege? Whether it’s Christians, Ahmadi’s, and other minority groups being slaughtered in Pakistan, or innocent men, women, and children both Christian and Muslim being killed in Palestine, Egypt, and Kenya, and terrorist attacks and threats too numerous to name, how much longer are we going to look toward the West to solve issues that 60 plus supposed Muslim countries should be able to fix themselves? What are all these heads of state doing in these countries? While we write and give speeches, animals are rampaging in the streets in our Muslim countries taking unholy actions and saying they are doing it in our name! Call me naive, but I don’t think a multi-page fatwa, a well written press release or op-ed, or an appearance on television or radio is going to stop bullets or bombs anytime soon. In truth, I believe that the only way to deal with this menace is a combination of education, policing both internal and external, actual physical confrontation, and the will to see the eradication of tyranny and savagery in the name of Islam and Muslims removed from the Earth by any means necessary. But that will happen when pink elephants fly most likely, as too many would rather wait until the West sends in troops only to complain later that the West sent in troops. It’s time that so-called Muslim countries act like it. It’s a shame that as a Muslim living in the West that I don’t feel that I can visit most Muslim majority nations for fear that someone calling themselves a Muslim would harm my person in some way. Yet, we tolerate this and we respond with an op-ed rather than calling on the governments and the people to stop proclaiming that which they are not prepared to enact.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m sick and tired of hearing about the beasts in Muslim countries creating havoc in the streets and causing terror in the hearts of their neighbors. I’m also tired of even here in the US, whenever there is a peace initiative, interfaith initiative, or any other activity that by definition should be led by Muslims as well, these events are rarely if ever facilitated by Muslims or Mosques, but that’s another topic for another day. Simply put, I’m tired of Muslims and look forward to fellowship with those who practice Islam.

The Quest To Define A Killer

130916_aaron_alexis_fbi_handout_ap_605For most of DC contractors, civilian, and Federal employees, Monday September 16th began like Monday’s in the region usually do: lots of traffic, contemplating telework to avoid traffic, or deciding to get in the office early enough to avoid traffic and thereby leave early enough for the same reason, thanks to many of our flexible schedules. Like many of the victims Monday morning, I had just sat down to my desk with my cup of coffee, logged into Microsoft Outlook, and was ready to start the day doing my small part to help keep the government going. It was with great shock and heartache that we all learned not long after many of our morning routines began, of the tragic events that took place not even 3 miles from where I work. My co-workers and I stared at the CNN stream on the televisions slack-jawed and many with tears in our eyes. All said some variant of the same thing, “It could have been us”. These sentiments weren’t the usual commentary that one makes when a major tragedy occurs while reflecting and recognizing our own mortality. No for those of us who like the victims, take the same trains, travel the same roads, work for the same agencies, we knew that there wasn’t much stopping a similar tragedy from happening to us. The only difference being a matter of mere miles and a killer willing to strike this agency or another. I drive past the Navy Yard area everyday back and forth on my way to and from work and have no doubt that many of the victims and their coworkers likely travel in cars beside me as we all begin and end our days in DC land. My prayers go out to the families and the victims of this tragedy and pray that no one will ever have to face such terror again. These men and women like so many in the same lines of work and employ, simply seek to serve their country and be able to provide for their families. We don’t come to work thinking that we might not return home, but our tear-stained cheeks, that morning suggested that maybe we should from now on.

It’s perfectly normal that once something of this magnitude occurs that we seek out the cause and look for some greater meaning. We want to know more about the killer, why he did it, and how was he able to pull it off. I’d like to believe that we do this, the media spectacularly so, in order to realize ways to prevent this from ever happening again, but the cynic in me thinks that although prevention may play a role, there are other reasons, some more nefarious, that are behind our fascination with this killer and the many before him. To be honest, once the initial shock began to fade, one of my first thoughts was “please God don’t let it be a Muslim”, which was also the sentiment of many Muslims in America as we texted and messaged one another. Tragic as the events are, we did not want to also witness the spectacle of the media pouncing on the always popular Muslim=terrorist stories. As a Black man I wasn’t so much worried about the killers race, because truth be told, it’s always said and inferred in the media that Black men are violent savages and after 4 centuries plus of this rhetoric, I’m numb to it. Not that apathy toward the killer’s race helped much when a co-worker, a Black male himself, came to my desk once the killer’s photo was revealed with a grim look on his face. I took one look at him and said “Damn he was Black wasn’t he?” my co-worker nodded solemnly and I just shook my head. This personal recounting is not so much to dwell on the feelings of what it’s like to connect with the tragedy on many levels, but to question the sensationalist frenzy and fervor the media whips itself into in their quest to be current on the latest prevailing theory as to why the killer did what he did.

In less than 72 hours the spin and hype machines have identified so many things as potential reasons for Aaron Alexis’s killing spree. So much so that the prospect that a Black, Buddhist, Navy Vet, Defense Contractor, who also played violent video games, is the killer is beginning to sound ridiculous on the surface. What troubles me is how little the media knows or rather intentional feigns ignorance on when it comes to many aspect’s of this guys past. They have questioned his discharge and opined how it was possible for him to get a job as a subcontractor to HP and get a clearance, as if your considered damaged goods if you don’t get an Honorable Discharge from the military. Newsflash, people get other than Honorable discharges from the military for a myriad of reasons some purely for administrative reasons. They’ve questioned his “violent” past, which I normally wouldn’t have an issue with as it could be relevant, but maybe it’s just me, but the way they have covered it, juxtaposed by images of his Black scowling face, seems to me the media is playing up the Black men are inherently dangerous and not to be trusted angle. Then there is the violent video game story that just won’t go away. This aspect of the story reminds me of the 90′s Gangsta Rap stories where we were told to believe that the genre and artists were somewhat to blame because some people decided to go out and act out what they heard. It was as if every “Black” youth who heard 2Pac automatically went out and shot up the neighborhood. Likewise, we are now supposed to believe that yet again, if you play Call Of Duty or GTA, you are prone to go out with AR-15′s and kill a bunch of people or beat up prostitutes in a back alley. One aspect that I find particularly interesting is the religion aspect of this story and how’s its being covered.

Let’s not kid ourselves, just as myself and many fellow Muslims were praying that this guy not be a Muslim, heck even after the name was revealed some of us still feared that he may be a convert, there were also many in the media hoping that he would be a Muslim. In fact, many Conservative media outlets had already started running with the usual terrorism and Muslim accusations. However, when it was revealed that he was a Buddhist, there were crickets on every network. We all know why that is. It’s the same reason why the slaughter of the Muslims in Myanmar by the Buddhists is never covered even though the Dalai Lama on several occasions has brought it up and asked his fellow Buddhists to stop killing Muslims. The media seems to have decided that only one religion’s adherents kill based on their beliefs and therefore, whenever a killer who belongs to a religion other than Islam is in the news, his religion and the role it may or may not have played in their crimes is never investigated. It must always be something else when it’s a non-Muslim, but had Aaron Alexis been a Muslim, we all know that every “expert” would be on the news right now explaining how violent Islam is and Muslims like myself would be on as well defending our faith against the onslaught. All in the name of ratings of course.

Why aren’t we allowed to question Buddhism though? Could it be that the powers that be have decided that Buddhism is a peaceful, tranquil religion above reproach and it’s adherents are never violent? I mean it’s not like Buddhists never try to commit genocide on non-Buddhists or anything dastardly like that right? Don’t get me wrong, I seriously doubt that Aaron Alexis had the teachings of Buddha on his mind when he killed, maimed, and traumatized his fellow co-workers and the nation, no more than his co-religionists in Myanmar do. But, I do question the behavior of the media in regards to it’s coverage of a killer’s religion when he or she is a non-Muslim and admit that when it was revealed that he was a Buddhist a wry smile crossed my lips. Not because I was happy or relieved that he was a Muslim per se, people died after all, but curious to see the spin that would take place, knowing that something ridiculous was forthcoming as the media figured out how to approach the topic. It didn’t take long for them to come up with something stupid.

Today we are being inundated with reports that although it appeared that Aaron Alexis was a devout Buddhist, in reality he was only into the religion because he liked Thai women. He also loved to drink and go to strip clubs. In other words, the Buddhist religion played absolutely no role in this tragedy and the media is going to ensure that we understand that the killer’s personal life bears witness to the fact that he couldn’t have “truly” been a Buddhist. Fair enough. However, I can’t help but think how awesome it would be if every killer was given the same treatment when their religion came up as a topic. I mean how many times are we told that because a killer identifies as a Muslim that it means that Islam absolutely played a role in their actions even though when their personal lives are revealed the facts are often similar to that of Aaron Alexis? Take the Boston Marathon bomber. This kid by many accounts was a pot-smoking, party going, rap listening, teen who just happened to be Muslim. Yet, even though you don’t have to be a Religious Studies major to know that Islam forbids many of these actions, none of that was enough to separate the killer from his religion. Heck, even Osama Bin Laden was reported to have a stash of porn.

My overall point, is that in order to advance in these discussions when it comes to figuring out a killer’s motives, we need to be more honest and forthcoming in our assessments. We need to abandon our prejudices and the need for sensationalism as a means of ratings generation. Yeah I know it won’t happen until purple unicorns fly, but if we are looking for solutions there is no better place to begin than with honesty. The fact remains that religion isn’t the best indicator of a killer’s motives unless they expressly claim so and not even then most of the time. Most if not all religions teach in the sanctity of life, are often completely non-violent, and when violence of any kind is permitted, it’s never against the innocent and never offensive. Furthermore, many religious people, or those who claim to follow this or that religion, rarely follow or practice every aspect of their stated religion’s teachings. I seriously doubt Jesus, Moses, Buddha, or Muhammad Peace and Blessings Be Upon Them, would advocate or support many of the behaviors the typical, law-abiding, American engages in. Sure religion plays a role in many of our lives, but the degree to which is does varies from one person to the next. For all we know, Aaron Alexis truly believed in the teachings of Buddha, yet decided to kill anyway. How many of us sincerely profess belief in our religion, yet smoke, drink, party, view and attend things and places we know we shouldn’t? I for one doubt Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would be all that supportive of my playing Dead Rising, Call Of Duty, and Mortal Kombat, but I digress.

Also, the media sucks on so many levels when discussing the military or how the government actually functions. It made me almost sick to my stomach every time I heard an anchor or pundit in their false outrage voice exclaim and opine about how is it possible that Aaron Alexis was able to get a clearance and a job as a Defense Contractor. For a while they played up the fact that he subcontracted with a company that worked for HP but soon after all mention of HP disappeared, likely due to corporate sponsorship warnings. The reality is that there are different types of discharges that are granted for varying reasons. That said, if you’re going to operate a “no spin zone” or try to “keep them honest” segment or any other self-congratulatory news coverage platitude in the media, at least do some research. Most discharges from the military do not impact one’s ability to seek or be granted employment or a clearance by the Federal government. You’re not automatically ruined, solely due to not having received and Honorable Discharge. That said, Alexis probably had no real criminal record, decent credit, and combined with prior military service made him more than eligible for a clearance, something that any clearance adjudication expert or Federal employee/contractor off the street could have clarified for the media.

Which leaves security. Though it appears that Aaron Alexis had every right to be at the Navy Yard that day due to having a badge and being employed there, I have to be honest and state that although gate security is in no way implicated in this crime, myself and others who have been to the Navy Yard and many military installations in the DC metro area, feel that security is often too lax at times. I have personally been waved through the gate at the Navy Yard on several occasions with only my driver’s license being looked at or reason for being there rarely even challenged. I do not work on the Navy Yard, do not have any government stickers on my vehicle, and the reason for visiting was to pick up my children from a class that was being held at the museum on base. Sometimes gate security asked for my drivers license and asked me to explain why I was there, other times they did not. This happened this year over the course of 2 weeks. Granted, I may look like former military, if we have a look, and I did have a sticker on my window of my last held rank in the Marine Corps (Sgt) and USMC stickers on my rear window, but still. I’m not singling out the Navy Yard either, I and others I have talked to, have experienced similar at Andrews Air Force Base and other installations. I doubt it will happen again if DoD reads this however. There goes me getting to class on time. I am not alone in my belief that part of the reason for this lax security at the gates is due to the increased presence of civilians at the gate instead of military personnel. Nothing against the civilian security that man these posts, but it’s been my experience that Military Police who’ve gone through months of training and years of experience take this role more serious than 9-5 er’s being contracted to fill these positions. Again, though gate security was in no way indicated and Aaron Alexis had the right to be on the base, IF the discussion on what to do next is going to be serious, I think we should examine why the Department Of Defense is allowing more and more civilians to man the gates in lieu of Military Police.

At the end of the day, the sensationalism is getting sickening. It appears the media is not remotely concerned about preventing another tragedy through careful, though-provoking analysis, and factual data. In fact, I believe some of them deep down, long for something else of this nature to happen so they could have something else to report around the clock when this story fades, because we all know Syria was so last week and isn’t a story anymore, the Colorado flooding isn’t big enough to milk more than a few days, and the Debt Ceiling showdown is too boring and is typical Republicans versus Obama madness.

The real story when looking at Aaron Alexis, is his mental health. This guy had problems. It was documented and being treated by the VA. Everything else, is smoke and mirrors being presented for our entertainment. Are you not entertained? In order to focus on the topic of mental health and how it relates to guns and national tragedies we’d have to get around the projections that the media and lobbyists put forward and go behind the curtain. Most if not all of these killers have mental health problems, whether we label them terrorists or not. They display similar symptoms and some are being treated at the time of their crimes and others are not. Maybe it’s time to have a national discourse on these individuals and what we can do to help them. Maybe just maybe, Aaron Alexis was simply a mentally ill, unstable individual who fell through the cracks and nothing, not his religion, video games, discharge, or employment played a larger role than that. However, it’s more likely that purple unicorns will fly than the media focusing on this.