Why is a criminal’s faith an issue when the perpetrator is a Muslim?

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Why is a criminal’s faith an issue when the perpetrator is a Muslim?

Aref Assaf

It was the morning after the Fort Hood massacre when I woke to seven urgent messages on my voicemails.

The tragedy was allegedly committed by an Army doctor who killed or maimed more than 40 of his fellow officers at an Army base in Texas. All calls were from news organizations anxious to quote the Muslim community’s reaction to the recent heinous killings allegedly committed by Nidal Malik Hasan.

They all wanted my reasons for what drove a 39-year-old Muslim to go on a killing spree. It took but a few moments to figure their reasoning for calling me, for I have been called before to reflect on acts of terror committed by fellow Muslims here and around the world.

Truthfully, I was expected to again disassociate myself from the killings and, secondly, to explain what Islam is.

I guess I fit the criteria of a person who has these qualities: I am a Muslim American of Palestinian descent. Consequently, I know what each one of the 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe is thinking or doing at any given moment.

“Hey, Dr. Assaf, pardon the annoyance so early in the morning. Another one of your people killed innocent Americans. This will be a big story again, as you have come to expect. As a leader in your community, as a practicing Muslim, can you share your response to the recent carnage? I was wondering if you’re feeling less of a Muslim when you learn about crimes committed by a fellow Muslim. Can we send our television crew to record your response?”

I almost wanted to pull whatever gray hair is left on my head; I wanted to scream so loud that a deaf man could hear me.

Why do I have to atone or account for the despicable acts of fellow Muslims with whom I have no contacts or relations? Why conversely, am I not rewarded or at least acknowledged for the thousand and one acts of kindness performed by fellow Muslims every day?

I am not a lesser Muslim because of the acts of a few extremists who may profess my faith. Does it make a person less a Christian because Timothy McVeigh and Adolf Hitler were Christians? Does it make a person less of a Jew because of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 30 Muslims in a mosque, was a Jew?

I’m utterly hurt and profoundly burdened by implications and the frequency of these questions from media outlets whenever some lunatic Muslim decides to commit a random act of violence.

Or, in this case, when a soldier psychiatrist goes berserk. Why is a criminal’s faith an issue when the perpetrator is a Muslim? Why do we seem to imply complicity when we discover the criminal was a devout adherent of his faith?

Almost prophetically, no one ever brought up the ethnicity or the faith of Jason Rodriguez, who on Nov. 6 went into his former work offices in Orlando, Fla., and started shooting and killing people there. Absent, but worth noting, no Christian organizations issued any condemnations.

Doubtless, the charges that Muslims have not so strongly disassociated themselves from these acts are not entirely fair. Data showed a credible evidence of wide and far-reaching opposition by the great majority of Muslims.

The West has either deliberately failed to hear the message or, and quite possibly, the message was not well communicated.

Yet it remains unacceptable that Muslims rest their souls until there emerges a new and all-encompassing movement, which teaches and enforces the sanctity of life and does not glorify and legitimize suicide bombings or any method used to inflict harm and bring death to innocent people.

It appears this GI was deeply troubled by the dichotomy of serving his country in a war he could not justify. He was not ready to die for his flag. The motivation for this confusion could have come from a discontented conscience, a misreading of his faith, compassion, fatigue, or some other factors.

Thousands of soldiers encounter this dilemma and they opt to leave the Army. But only a few so violently express their anger and disorientation by causing havoc to others. I despise all the Hasans of the world because their actions give excuses to reporters to harass me, to insult my faith, to question my loyalty and doubt my patriotism.

All of us, bereaved citizens of this great land, are forever left with the tormenting task of trying to explain or justify actions of a soldier who refuses to be deployed to a war he so detests. Undoubtedly, nothing could ever justify or excuse Hasan’s alleged actions.

But it ought to expand the horizon of those in the media who seem so infatuated with the need to pin the blame for this perverse tragedy solely on a man’s faith and last name, rather than considering the variables of a more complicated truth encompassing some combination of mental state, divided loyalty, or conscientious objection.

Until then, please do not call me. For, like you, I have not the answer.


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