An American Muslim’s Response to the Tragedy in Chattanooga

americanmuslim-us-flag.jpgMuslims are taught that during the month of Ramadan, Satan and his influences are locked up and the gates of Paradise are wide open. However, I have found—and wth heart-breaking realization today—that the evil within the hearts of mankind can still prevail.

I learned of the tragedy in Chattanooga after work. A close friend of mine asked me would I be responding and when I asked him to what, he gave me the devastating news. Instantly, I was choked up, my eyes filled with tears, and though my heart was overrun with sadness, the rage and anger began to smolder beneath. It was déjà vu for me all over again. I similarly received news in this manner when Nidal Hassan attacked fellow Soldiers at Ft. Hood. Then, as I did today, I gripped the steering wheel tightly and fought back the scream and the tears.

I’m a Marine. I state that with pride, honor, and as a matter of fact. I left for Parris Island when I was 17 and earned the title of US Marine. To hear that my 4 of my brothers were attacked instantly filled me with rage. I’m not ashamed to admit this, but the complex emotions that swam around inside overwhelmed me with a profound grief. A grief that even now I can’t truly articulate how I feel. Stating in my head over and over “how could he” did not do much for my psyche as I made my way through DC traffic. Listening to the news on the radio, trying to find out what texts could not, surely didn’t help either.

This is a last day of Ramadan. The conclusion of a month of fasting, prayers, and trying to be the best person you could be. Revulsion is what I and many other Muslims feel. We know that the killer committed such a crime in general, but especially on this day. It takes a seriously sick individual to call themselves Muslim if that’s what the killer did and then commit an atrocity like this. Was he radicalized, whatever that means? Was he devout? Mainstream media is sure throwing the term around. Though, I was not surprised to hear the terrorist was cited for a DUI in April. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and so is the killing of innocents—but neither of those things mattered to this killer. We may never know what motivated the killer, but we do know that his actions have caused a lot of grief and pain for the family and the nation.

As a Muslim and a Marine, terms and titles I never believed to be mutually exclusive, I find this attack unconscionable and condemn it with no condition. I never met the victims but they are my brothers. They earned the title like I did and served their country like I did and they did not deserve to die by this madman. They are heroes in my book and should be honored. I feel betrayed as a Muslim, because when these things happen, we all collectively get blamed.

I have served my country my entire adult life. I don’t know anything else, but when these evil people who call themselves Muslims, commit crimes against humanity like this, they fully realize the admonishing in the Qur’an that states that when one takes the life of another unjustly it’s as if they killed all mankind. My wife and my children and those of many other American Muslims must now be on the alert because of the collective blame that is being leveled against us.

This must remain about the victims and their families, but we can’t exclude the reality that is being Muslim in America. For instance, there was a racially motivated terrorist attack in Charleston, SC last month and the media refused to call it terrorism. Yet, in a similar hate filled attack the media does not hesitate to call this crime terrorism—because naturally only Muslims can be terrorists right?

I truly wish in my heart of hearts the killer was a devout Muslim. If he were a devout Muslim he would be celebrating the end of Ramadan and planning to join in of the Eid festivities and prayers. He would have been fasting, praying for peace, and giving charity like the rest of us and trying to counter terror with love like so many Muslims who have raised nearly 100k for the Black Churches set on fire last month. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the evil intentions that produce the hate against our fellow man go away, but I don’t. Instead I’ll join in with the billion peaceful well-intention Muslims around the world in praying for a better tomorrow.

Our Corps of Marines were dealt a heavy blow, but we are forever strong and will persevere through our grief. My Ummah will face more scrutiny and challenges here in America in the days ahead, but our faith in God and in humanity will bring us through. I pray for a better, more peaceful, world and country. I pray that no family will ever have to experience what these victims have experienced today. I grieve with my Corps and my Country and I have faith that things will eventually get better. May the peace and blessings of God be on us all.

Semper Fidelis.

Robert Salaam is a former active duty US Marine and an American Muslim blogger and speaker. Follow him on twitter @RSalaam