Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Faith Justifies the Fort Hood Massacre

I express my condolences to the Fort Hood victims and their families. I honor the fallen: Dr. Mike Cahill, Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, Capt. John Gaffaney, Specialist Frederick Greene, Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, Sgt. Amy Krueger, Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, Pfc. Michael Pearson, Pvt. Francheska Velez, Lt. Cal Juanita Warman, Capt. Russell Seager and Pfc. Kham Xiong. I pray for the the wounded.

When I read about the terrible shooting rampage at Fort Hood, I was shocked and disgusted. When I discovered that Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a fellow Muslim, was responsible, I was outraged. I cannot understand how anyone, especially someone claiming to be a Muslim, could murder innocent people. People have compared this incident to the Oklahoma City bombing. Some people mention that the media did not refer to Timothy McVeigh’s Christian religion or describe him a Christian terrorist. Some have questioned the relevance of Hasan's religious views.

Although the investigation is ongoing, according to reports, Major Nidal Malik Hasan's religion is relevant because he alleged exploited it to justify his cowardly actions. We should not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that his faith played no role. We must confront and condemn all fanaticism. Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) before he began firing on his fellow soldiers. Additionally, he reportedly expressed reservations about joining non-Muslims in a battle against fellow Muslims. He allegedly made statements sympathizing with suicide bombers and had ties to an extremist imam linked to Al Qaeda.

After beginning to recover from 9/11, this incident has set back Muslim and Christian relations by decades. When the public is constantly bombarded with disturbing images of suicide bombings and other terrorist acts committed by misguided Muslims in the name of God, understandably and but unfortunately, people begin to equate Islam with terrorism and violence. I share Army Chief of Staff General George Casey’s concern that this tragedy may lead to some people to question Muslim American soldiers’ loyalty. People must resist prejudice. The extremists are a minuscule minority. They do not represent the vast majority of law abiding and patriotic American Muslims.

I join the many Muslims who have condemned this horrific crime. In the words of President Obama, “No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor.”

Many people have used distorted interpretations of Islam to justify terrorism. However, the Quran and the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) oppose terrorism and extremism. Each surah or chapter, except one, of the Holy Quran begins with the phrase “In the Name of Allah (God), the Beneficent, the Merciful.” Mercy is God’s dominant attribute. No merciful God would condone the brutal murder of innocent soldiers. It sickens me to hear terrorists use God's blessed name to celebrate senseless acts of violence. Although the Quran does address the issue of war within a historic and pragmatic context, the greeting of the Muslims is As-salaam Alaikum (peace be upon you). The words "Islam" and "Muslim" have peace as their root. In fact, in Surah 5:32 of the Quran, Allah compares killing an innocent person to slaying a whole people and saving a single life to saving a whole people. Similar to other major religions, Islam condemns suicide bombings. At Surah 4:29 in the Quran, Allah commands Muslims not to “kill (or destroy) yourselves for verily Allah hath been to you most merciful.” In Surahs 4:171 and 2:143, Allah encourages the people not "to commit excesses in religion" and refers to the Muslim community or Ummat as "justly balanced". Extremism is the ultimate manifestation of imbalance. In Surah 5:8 of the Quran, Allah commands believers to be fair and “not to let hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.”

Intolerance and hatred breed violence. Muslim leaders must promote tolerance and mutual understanding. As stated in Surah 3:64, we must call Christian, Jews and Muslims to come to common terms. The Quran repeatedly reminds us that all of mankind was created from a single person. We share a common humanity and destiny.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Positive Images of Black Marriage

Last week, I listened to an engaging discussion on the Marc Steiner Show promoting the movie Happily Ever After: Positive Images of Black Marriage.

For a large segment of the African American community, marriage is not the norm. Many of our communities are plagued by absentee fathers and teenage pregnancy. According to the U.S. Census , in 2007, 40.4 percent of African Americans never married compared to 22.7 percent for whites and 31.4 percent for Hispanics. According to the U.S. Census report Living Arrangements of Children: 2004, only 38 percent of African American children live in two parent homes. In contrast, 87 percent of Asian children, 78 percent of white children and 68 percent of Hispanic children live in two parent households.

During the broadcast, the guests emphasized the need to present positive images of marriage to address the problem. For that reason, I look forward to seeing the movie. However, as one caller stated, drugs, welfare and mass incarceration have contributed the destruction of the African American family structure. Although helpful, positive images alone will not end this crisis. This is an urgent issue that the civil rights organizations and religious institutions must address.