Same book, different message

Quran9615

Politics is an amusing thing or so I am truly learning.  The mass killing and terrorism caused at the hands of Army Major Hassan in Fort Hood last week created varied reactions, opinions, and emotions throughout America and the world.  Fortunately or Unfortunately, depending on who you ask, I have been caught up in the firestorm of rhetoric as well.  The overwhelming feeling across the nation is outrage which is understandable, but how we channel that outrage has been the most interesting thing to emerge in the discussion.  Many like myself chose to condemn this murderer outright and encourage prayer and support for the victims and the country, however many others began to take sides and point fingers.  This is where I may have gotten myself in trouble as I just happen to have been one of those who thought it just a little absurd that suddenly or really once again, 1 billion people were accused for the actions of one individual whom we didn’t even know like most until he committed his crime.  I just happen to be one of those people who thought I shouldn’t have to apologize for another’s actions, especially due to the fact that he claimed to follow the same religion and in an odd twist of fate attended the same mosque that I do.  I even went as far as to label those who wanted to apply this standard to Muslims that they would not apply to themselves in a similar fashion, hypocrites, as that was the only word I knew that described such people.

I caught flak from the left and the right, from Muslims and non-Muslims, and even some members of my family were divided on my CNN interview!  However, even after a weekend of intense reflection, fear concerning my person and family, and doubt about my actions, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot bite my tongue and if people don’t like my words on my blog, than that is their problem.  I never claimed to be an expert, a definitive source, or a scholar in either politics or religion.  I am one man who decided several years ago to share my opinions with those who cared to read, because I believed then as I do now, that the biggest issue in this never-ending debate is our relationships with one another as Americans and ultimately all of humanity.  I firmly believe that what separates us and causes the reactions we tend to have toward one another especially when faced with tragedies such as this one, is our lack of knowledge about each other.  If we but knew one another, we could understand one another, and if we understood one another, we could move beyond hating or wishing ill-will toward one another.  I believe what is missing is the human touch.

To that effect, one of my main themes with my efforts online and in public such as this blog, my radio show, the American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN) and other projects, is to get the word out that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims and to a greater extent Muslims in general, are really not that much different than anyone else.  Many of us are your average Joe like I am, who has to raise and provide for a family, who has a day job, and for entertainment contrary to popular belief are not planning to destroy non-Muslims, but most likely spend more time watching movies, playing video games, or reading sci-fi novels, all while wondering how to feed five growing boys, support a daughter who’s approaching womanhood faster by the second, and wondering through all this how to keep them all insured and send them to college.  But more on that later…

What often disturbs me most of all in the discussion, is what I view as the total illogical attitudes many have toward Muslims.  Take for instance the title of my inconsistent rant today “Same book, different message”, I mean to me at least, it should be a no-brainer.  Of course, it’s entirely feasible that two people can read the same book and get two different messages from it.  Now imagine 1 billion people!  Seriously, I have to laugh in order to stop crying, which is why I tend to be a little sarcastic and have a dark humor.  I just don’t get it with some people.  If you think the comments I received on this blog is bad, you should see my inbox, or the comments to the many articles published online where “Robert Salaam” is mentioned.  It’s truly heart wrenching, because as a real person who loves his country, loves his faith, and is just giving an opinion, it’s troubling that people can hate because they don’t agree and because they don’t understand.  I look at my at my 3 year old and wonder if he will have to contend with an America like this one when he’s 29 and it absolutely frightens me.  As I told the AP reporter (of course none of this made the final cut), your talking about a guy who still stands at attention when he hears the national anthem or the Marines Hymn, even if sitting on the couch in his pajamas.  One could go into my closet right now and see my uniforms inspection ready, my Alpha’s, Blues, and Cammies all ready to go as if I’m still in the Corps.  When I found out this killer was a Muslim, I was playing Halo on my Xbox, when my iPhone buzzed with an OMG email from Sheila Musaji at The American Muslim (TAM).  I share all this because I believe that I’m not unique.  There are thousands of Muslims out there right now like me, who are devout practicing Muslims, who are more concerned with their Xbox Live achievement scores than they are with what non-Muslims are doing, who are more concerned with buying a house in this market, than they are about spreading Islam in America, and who could no more care about harming anyone, than they are about the neighbor who put out their trash too early on trash night.  This is the really for the overwhelming number of 1 billion followers of Islam.  That’s why I have to admit it does hurt when I see my loyalties are questioned on this site or that.  I remember taking my children to the Sunset Parade in Arlington this summer, reminding them to be mindful of those brave men and women who died in the very cemetery that we passed through, chastising them for daring to utter a word on hallowed ground, I remember standing at attention with pride and hoisting my boys up to get a closer look at the silent drill team and the Marine Band, yet on this blog and elsewhere on the net, I am called a traitor, I am told I spit on the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor that I proudly earned, and many of the very ones making these allegations, haven’t even served this country in any capacity, but I digress….

Bare with me, you know what blog your reading… 🙂

My overall point is this:

Muslims are too diverse to be placed in a box, labeled, and accused for every indiscretion, horror, and tragedy committed by another Muslim.  But that’s the reality of any faith group, ethnic group, nation, etc.  Common sense reminds us of that, yet in anger and in haste, many want to dump this incident along with many others at the feet of 1 billion people and ask us to explain, ask us to apologize, and ask us to fix it as if they do the same thing?  If it is true that this Major Hassan believed he was doing the will of God and even shouted God is Great, than the reality is that it’s equally true that other Muslims like myself believe they are doing the will of God when we live our lives in peace shouting Allahu Akbar many times a day in prayer and even when your son learns a new word.

The question is how do we deal with this reality?  How is it both possible that some claim a religion and become murderers while others can claim the same religion and become great men and women?  I mean it’s ridiculous when you think about it, because everyone does it everyday.  There are roughly 300 million people in America, claiming a myriad of religious traditions or no religion at all, yet look at our crime rates, poverty, etc.  Does that speak more of the religion, country, or the people themselves?  Do we blame certain ethnic groups as a whole for crimes that may be more prevalent in their communities than others?  Do we consider that just?

The truth is, whether Muslim or non-Muslims choose to accept it, out of 1 billion plus people who claim to be Muslim, there are those who are:

HIV Positive

Drug Addicted

Been Abused

Democrat

Republican

White

Black

Asian

American

French

Moderate

Conservative

Short

Tall

Slim

Obese

Gay

Straight

are a Mac

are a PC

Prefer Coke

Prefer Pepsi

Hope that Navy creams Army

Hope that Army beats Navy

Went to Harvard

Went to Yale

etc. etc. etc.

But isn’t that the case with all people?

So I ask, what do we do from here?  What have we learned?  Has it made us any better as Humans?

Major Hassan is a murderer, his actions were treacherous, treasonous, and appalling to the highest degree.  He betrayed his fellow soldiers, his fellow Americans, and yes his fellow Muslims.  He has caused unnecessary grief and sadness for the victims, their families, friends, the larger community at Ft. Hood, America and the World, and we seem to forget that he has wrought the same even upon his family.  As a parent, I know I would be distraught if this were my son.  Who’s to blame here outside of Maj Hassan?  Do we blame those in the Army who noticed that things weren’t right with him?  Do we blame the FBI who according to some reports may have been watching his activity as of 6 months ago, do we blame the local Imam who even thought he was troubled?  Do we blame the Imam at the Mosque I attend regularly where Hassan supposedly attended as well, or do we take the radical step and lay the blame not a the feet of an inanimate religion and it’s 1 billion followers, but at the feet of the madman who personally decided to pull the trigger that day?  In reality, no one can be punished either in this life or the hereafter but Maj. Hassan, so why is Robert Salaam and his family and the families across the globe like mine to blame?  I wasn’t in Texas that day, I have never even been to Texas.

Am I saying as some will certainly twist that Hassan and others have not based their actions on interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith?  Nope, not at all.

What I am saying that when using that argument to further discourse is that one should carefully consider the reality that a billion others look at that same Qur’an and Hadith and base their non-violent daily activities as well.

I mean this isn’t exactly rocket science.  How many today will readily admit that black people are cursed as written in the Bible?  Few, yet it has and can be done.  How many today will readily admit that it’s OK to kill every living thing in order to secure Israel as the homeland for the Jews?  Few, yet it has and can be done.

So why does it seem so far fetched to some that there are those “Muslims” out there who can read the exact same Qur’an I do and decide that for them it says to kill all non-Muslims?

Obviously, the discourse into exegesis, theology, and Tafsir in general is more complex than I’m presenting, and then most would have to contend with the myriad of declarations by respected scholars in Islam against terrorism, to begin to scrath the surface of such a complex subject.

The point is, that there are going to be those who follow religion and see peace and tranquility and there are going to be others who see a catalyst for death and destruction.  I just happen to be in the majority opinion when it come the interpretation of the religion of Islam, if I were not, I’m certain, it would be much worse if a billion people were waging war against the world would it not?

Lastly, at least for now,

One cannot ignore the fact that culture often has a role in religious application, understanding, and overall practice.  Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Americans don’t have a different worldview than say Japanese.  There are cultural experiences, nuances, etc. that are best left to the classroom but that many understand on the surface.  Also, within these nations exist, sub cultures that within specific ethnic, tribal, and sometimes class groups.  This of course is more prevalent in the West or in this example America of course moreso, than other nations.

That said, do we really not think that maybe just maybe the way a black Muslim in Harlem understands the Qur’an maybe slightly or maybe even dramatically different than a white Muslim in San Diego, a Japanese Muslim in Tokyo (yes they exist), or a Pakistani Muslim in Islamabad?  Certainly we should, but is this really part of the discussion?  Do we not realize that Muslims are not isolated from cultural realities, attitudes, behavior, dress, etc. as everyone else?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we don’t all dress alike, speak alike, think alike, and BELIEVE alike.

I happen to be American.  This is my country of birth.  My forefathers, built this country on their backs and often at the pain of a whip.  We did not come here seeking a better life, education, or milk and honey, my ancestors were sold and forcefully brought here.  So my worldview is a “little” different.  But I love this country.  My family in the past and even today have served in the Armed forces as far back as WWI, My first cousin is in Iraq as I type these words, but my family is no different than many other American families.  I’m not the first or only Muslim who raised their right hand pledging an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign  and domestic”, I’m not the first or only Muslim Marine who pledged “I am an NCO dedicated to training new Marines and influencing the old”, nor will I be the last.  The majority have DD214’s like mine that states HONORABLE DISCHARGE and several have given the ultimate sacrifice and are buried in Arlington Cemetery.

This is the reality.  We can either accept that Muslims are not one evil bloc, or we can accept that out of 1 billion Muslims there are those who are evil and rotten to the core.  How to fix this is no easier than the questions I ask as a black man in America who have to contend with the issues we face.  Maybe the solution(s) are the same in both situations that affect me, who knows, I happen to lean toward education and good ole fashion parenting as the primary lines of defense, I can no more support the interment and expulsion of all Muslims from the US or the US Military as I could those who wanted to send all blacks to Africa, let’s be real, many a serial killer, rapist, etc. was baptized, accepted communion, etc.  and we call it like we see it, they are sick individuals and even while those like Jim Jones swore he was following the Bible even to the end, most Christians disagreed, and what is equally true is that while Osama Bin Laden and others claim to justify their actions in the Qur’an most Muslims also disagree.

Maj. Hassan had some serious issues.  The story is not over.  Who knows maybe the taunting, deployment fears, etc. just caused him to snap.  Maybe he was just crazy to begin with.  Maybe he was convinced on the net after reading and posting in radical (their called radical for a reason) messageboards.  Maybe it’s combination of all the above in varying degrees, or maybe it’s just something we never thought of and will soon find out.  Who truly knows except Hassan and God?  What we do know is 2 million plus Muslim Americans are not currently committing these actions nor have they in the past.

Let’s not forget that our troops and their families are bearing the brunt of decisions made by politicians in DC that affect them in the world in often tragic ways.  This violence no less easier.  Suicide rates, divorce, PTSD, and many other issues plague our Armed Forces in a reality of multiple back to back deployments, fighting an enemy that is increasingly harder to discern.  Let’s not also forget that for many Afghan’s and Iraqi’s, there countries have seen wanton violence and destruction for almost 8 years in the case of Afghanistan and 7 for Iraq, and that’s only since we deployed troops there.  So let’s not convince ourselves that these realities are not taking their toll on the mindset of individuals on both sides.  The question is what are we going to do about it?

What we need to do is pray.  Pray for the victims, pray for the families, pray for this nation, and pray for the world.

May God grant us strength, patience, and compassion.

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14 Comments

  1. Sir:
    I most impressed by your articulation and your courage.
    If people think that Islam promotes murder; “Allah Akhabar” they say Hassan shouted as he fired, then we need to understand how this it is not true.
    Religion does seem to have something to do with the affair. Surely not your faith — but certainly Hassan’s faith; who could praise god while killing us.
    Did anyone ever tell him that the other soldiers and their families; fathers, mothers and children were created by the same god who created him? That they are ends in themselves and not means to some other end? In the many months since he bought the gun; in all that time did he hear that god loves all mankind? .. that it is not possible; not logical that god could be pleased by murder?
    So we need to have this conversation.
    Somewhere; somehow Hassan got this idea; that god approves of the bloody business.  And in his devotions and with his spiritual advisors he was not dissuaded. Neither were the many others (non muslims included) who follow this path.
    Here; now, in these events it is the Muslims in the spotlight.  They must provide an answer to this and they don’t acquit themselves well by hyper-ventilating their insult at being asked or recounting long lists of atrocities committed by non-muslims.
     

    Reply

  2. Maj. Hasan apparently was a cultural, or secular, Muslim up until his mother died, at which time he became more serious about Islam. He may have been influenced by a radical imam in Virginia, but he was undoubtedly also influenced by the words and dees of his prophet.

    I have looked into Islam to some degree, and it is disturbing how easy it is for bin Laden, Hasan, et al, use Islam to justify violence. In fact, in my opinion, it is impossible to unequivocally refute radical Islamist ideology using the the Quran and Hadith.  The best you can do is offer a competing vision or interpretation.

    To this non-Muslim, it seems Islam contains instructions for the minority that are capable of carrying out violence to defend the ones who aren’t, for the defense of the ummah and to soften up the kuffar for dawah. It’s like bad cop, good cop – people seem almost giddy when they meet nice, friendly Muslims, because they can convince themselves that there isn’t anything in Islam that is inherently violent and discriminatory.

    Maj. Hasan became more serious about Islam in the absence of a larger Muslim community.  His family, and a large Muslim community, wasn’t there to help guide him through his journey deep into Islam. This confirms my suspicion that at its core, without the filter of  a socially normal community, Islam encourages this sort of behavior.

    Reply

    1. Jhimmi,

      In your analysis, you also forget to acknowledge that just as easy as it is for OBL and others to use Islam to justify violence, it’s just as easy for a billion Muslims to use the Qur’an to justify peace which we do daily. To me it’s just common sense that “radicals” “extremists” etc. are called such for a reason. To be given that title it literally means that you believe and act in ways that ARE AGAINST THE NORM, these guys that you are using as the example of Islam are going against the norm of what Islam is and what the majority of Muslims believe and hence are called “extremists”. So it’s illogical to come to conclusions about what a religion teaches when you only consider the interpretation of those who in the extreme minority.

      As far as using religious texts to justify atrocities, we have to be honest, every major religious text has been used to justify a majority of things, one can find what they are looking for if they are determined enough, history bares witness to that.

      Reply

      1. All religions are not alike unless we think they are only about feelings in which case they are not much use.    Apparently Hassan was a believer in what he thought was true that god is pleased with his  murderous acts. Else he would not praise god between reloadings.  In the months leading up to Ft. Hood; in his daily devotions ; in his meetings with spiritual advisors, he must never have understood that god surely loves man.  In the Christian gospel we hear  god approach us with his love. We hear it; we may not understand …  yet we hear.  Where do we hear the muslims say that even though god is omnipotent, he is yet constrained by truth;  he cannot be unreasonable, that he cannot tell a lie; that he cannot – not love man without condition?  I think I hear the opposite in Islam and so it seems no wonder that Hassan misunderstood.

  3. The bottom line here is that Islam contains opposing messages, or themes, one peaceful and one violent.  If the overarching explanation is that Islam is at once both peaceful and violent, then Islam, and likely the world, is doomed.
    Rather than saying it’s ok because everyone else has done it at one time or another, Muslims (and others) need to challenge the views and interpretations of radical Islamists, and prove them false. If this can’t be done, then they are every bit as legitimately Muslim as the peace loving members of the ummah. I often hear Muslims say OBL and his ilk ‘aren’t true Muslims. Oh yeah? Why not? Where, specifically, have they got it wrong?

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  4. This was most cruel act of barbarism that Maj. Hasan  committed to the Muslim Ummah.

    It was senseless and barbaric act, which has coused an untold harm to the Muslim living in US and around the world.

    What did he achieve after all. Nothing. This act has put every Muslim serving in any Government as well private companies under microscope. No one shall hire /promote any muslim to any sensitive or responsible position.  Universities may keep out muslim candidate even if they qualify for the entry to the professional careers.

    Nine Eleven memories are still fresh and now this.

    May God help us.

    Reply

  5. The media loves to get their teeth into things like this.  They are useless has far as I am concerned.  Dont be discouraged.  There are many of us working class guys who know that we are all Children of Abraham.

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  6. I think he was a disturbed individual who snapped—and as with all human beings—he used justification (twisted and illogical though it was) to sqaure his actions in his mind. —to ignore this aspect and focus on the “religion” is to actually do a disservice to the men and women of the militiary who are under a tremendous strain—both in the medical profession and as soldiers. NY times says that there is a heavy work overload because of the mental health problems.  This is not the first incident where a soldier “snapped” and killed.

    Justification—the human mind can justify voilence. I saw a program about the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S. soldiers. —-They said “it stopped the war”—-Maybe—but the war could have been stopped by other means—-the bombs unleashed an awful horror on the people—one that they had to live with for generations afterwards because of the cancers and leukemias  from radiation. —-something that the U.S. military did know about because of the testing they had done—and they dropped the bombs anyway!!!!  —but hey—it stopped the war……..

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    1. Hassan is evidently  devoted to god.  In all the time between him buying the gun, praying daily, conversing with spiritual advisors,  giving away his things, loading the gun, leaving for the base; telling his neighbor he was off on god’s business  — and finally shouting praises to god while killing his comrades… Islam may not have caused it — but it surely did nothing at all for any of us.

      Reply

  7. “Islam may not have caused it — but it surely did nothing at all for any of us. “………So?????

    If a mentally unstable individual shoots people and then claims “Santa made me do it”—-and he fervently believes that Santa Claus actually “made him do it”—it does not make all Santa believing people responsible for the man’s action nor does it mean that Santa actually endorses/promotes shooting people…..It simply means a mentally unstable person shot people and in his unstable state—he used Santa as his justification…..and that’s all there is to it!!!

    Reply

    1. Yes. I would say that if Hassan was a fervent devotee to Santa Claus in would be no more help to us in dissuading him from the bloody business than Islam apparently was.  I know that if he were a Christian he would have heard a message that god is real approaching man constrained by love … he may still have done this infamy … but the words he hears; and every example he sees in Jesus would be saying that god loves all mankind without condition; a logical truth like 2+2=4. I do not believe that Hassan ever heard this from any of his spiritual advisors and so I say it is fair criticism that Islam failed us.

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  8. I can wholeheartedly agree that Prophet Jesus(pbuh) taught a message of love and compassion—one that is taught in the Quran.  But sadly, it may have gotten lost when the Irish Christians terrorized both Ireland and the U.K.—it may have gotten lost when an Army Sergeant opened fire and killed five on a U.S. base in Iraq….and it keeps getting lost when a family member abuses their loved ones or a person commits a crime…..what was it Jesus Christ (pbuh) said about casting the first stone…..?

    As to failing….I would say, religion does not fail us….we fail our religion………..

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  9. Only religion requires belief without evidence as the standard for morality.

    Only religion values belief without evidence as a good thing.

    Only religion demands a privileged place in society on the basis of the word of supernatural and therefore un-testable authority.
     
    If I “go postal” because I am mentally ill, or because my girlfriend dumped me or something like that, then people will condemn my actions, but they will understand that what made me do it was specific to me.  They don’t have to worry about their neighbor, it was just “luck of the draw” that I happened to be the one to go postal.
     
    But if a person goes postal because of an ideology (religious or otherwise), anyone could follow his example, because anyone could secretly hold the same beliefs.
     
    If those beliefs ALSO require and support magical thinking (like Islam does), then NOT ONLY could anyone have these beliefs, but there is no amount of evidence that will convince you NOT to go postal!
     
    Is it really that hard to understand why religion-inspired violence makes people nervous?
     
    Robert, look at our “conversation” so far.  I have made numerous overtures to show you why faith-based reasoning is flawed, and how an evidenced-based system of knowledge has great power to explain the behavior of humans.  I can similarly make evidence-based claims about the physics of the universe, the formation of the earth etc. etc.
     
    Your response so far has been to ignore all of my posts except for the ones that you think you have an “answer” to.  It’s EASY to tell people what you believe is true.  It’s much harder to admit that your beliefs are false.
     
    I hope that so far my posts have challenged you to question your beliefs.  It’s not important to me that you come to believe what I believe, but it IS important to me and to the WHOLE WORLD that you decide to use evidence to decide what’s true.  Reasonable people will disagree.
     
    Unreasonable people cannot be reasoned with.
     
    “Allah Akbar”  BANG! BANG! BANG!  Is not reasonable.

    Reply

  10. Oh, BTW, the Quran is only “evidence” that someone wrote a book.

    The word of an authority (especially divine authority) is not evidence.

    Reply

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