In 2009 upon hearing about the shooting in Ft. Hood, TX, I thought and wrote “I hope it’s not a Muslim.” I was quoted and interviewed about this sentiment for several days afterward, when my fears were realized. Today I reflect on those sentiments as another tragedy unfolds. What I didn’t say in 2009 and the years since, is that as an American Muslim, every time a mass shooting is reported, the tight chest, the accelerated heart rate, the nausea, happens for me and so many others.
We do not live in an America where a tragedy can be a tragedy that brings us all together regardless of race, religion, or politics. Immediately the allegations, finger pointing, and bias runs rampant on social media, in the news, and in every corner of society. When the culprit is revealed, depending on who was right, the emotions range from an “I told you so” to “You people.” I don’t have to reveal what group(s) get the most flak in this regard.
As an American, I mourn for the victims and the loss of life of anyone who started the day not thinking that they would be gunned down by some evil, deranged person. I mourn for the families and the pain they must be going through.
However, what no one wants to say publicly for fear of it sounding a little self-serving, callous, or even narcissistic, is that there is blow back for certain groups of Americans who are often considered guilty by association. Our fear, nervousness, and panic is real, especially in the current American climate, where candidates for President of the United States can say fascist things against a minority group and it not only be considered normal, but their popularity actually rises. We now live in a country where worshipers can be stalked by gun toting activists, vandalism is on the rise, and women are being verbally and physically assaulted because of how they dress, what they look like, and what they believe.
So yes, as an American Muslim and especially as a husband and a parent, I am terrified for my family and my friends when I hear about mass shootings. Granted, less so than many of my coreligionists who “look” Muslim, but even still, I too have to be on the alert when going to pray and I too have to tell my children the reality of being Muslim in America today as if being Black already wasn’t enough.
What adds insult to injury is that for many Muslims our only defense is to take to social media, write op-eds, release press statements, or go on radio and TV interviews to announce our sorrow and do our best to disassociate with the insane, the barbaric, and the evil because they, their supporters, and islamophobes believe and call themselves Muslim.
I for one will never join the ranks of the those who feel the need to make statements that appear to apologize for Muslims or Islam, because I have committed no crimes and Islam in of itself can do nothing. Though I understand why they do this and the reasons why many find that it is necessary. Immoral and twisted individuals with wickedness in their hearts and evil in their intent commit these atrocities and should be doing all the apologizing if that is even possible.
That said, this is not even about a mid-30’s Black guy with a comfortable life in suburban MD. It’s really about my children and their future in this nation I faithfully serve and my country who is in pain and who’s tendency to attack the other is often misplaced and in some cases may even make the situation worse.
I long for an America where tragedy unites us in our prayers and our resolve toward solutions, instead of an America where terrorism divides us along religious, racial, and political lines.
May we work together and pray together in our efforts to produce positive solutions and not create a broader divide. I pray that wisdom and not fear guides our minds and our hands. I look toward a nation that focuses on who we are in our souls not our surface reactions based on fear of the unknown.
May God bless those directly affected by this tragedy and May God bless America.