As a marathon runner who knows just how joyful Monday should have been for everyone in Boston and beyond, as a parent who has raised four children of my own to see their ninth birthdays and more, as a human being who loves my own life and celebrates the gift of knowing and living along-side others, my heart weeps for Boston and Boston's citizens, for Boston's marathoners and their families, and for all those touched by the despicable, craven and horrific terror attack inflicted on the Boston Marathon.
Words cannot express my sympathy, my compassion and my sorrow that I feel for everyone touched by that tragedy.
But because I am Muslim, because of the evil acts of the evil Muslim men of al Qaeda and others like them, because they might be responsible, my response throughout was clouded by an ongoing internal litany of silent prayer saying, "Please God, don't let it be a Muslim that's responsible. " I made that prayer because of the fear I felt for innocent Muslims who might suffer from an anti-Muslim backlash, like that which has plagued our world for the past ten years, felt worst in Iraq and Afghanistan, a litany and a fear that I know is shared with me by Muslims around the world, which is why I wasn't surprised to hear that Fox News contributor Erik Rush wants to "Kill All Muslims," as his own particular response to that atrocity.
However, as far as I am concerned, al Qaeda alone deserves the blame.
One of the few good things that can come out of any tragedy is a communal drawing together, something Osama bin Laden set out to rob from America's Muslims when he first attacked America. In a more perfect world, when tragedy strikes, when an individual is hurt, it gives the rest of us an opportunity to help and it gives victims an opportunity to accept that help too, which is equally important: If you haven't suffered a tragedy yourself yet, you have no idea how hard that can be sometimes. And the good things that come of that -- sometimes the only good that happens -- are new and/or improved relationships, and a greater sense of and appreciation for our community and our shared humanity.
Those benefits transcend personal boundaries: We all know stories -- and those stories are unquestionably real, and almost universally experienced and verified -- about entire communities drawn together by an individual act of kindness that redeems relationships between those communities in both directions extending upwards and downwards, inwards and outwards, within and between individuals, tribes and interest groups up to and even beyond the national level. And the opportunity to improve relationships extends beyond just those directly involved in the tragedy: bad things can sometimes make us all feel closer, and draw us all together.
But there is also a darker thing that can happen too, when blame becomes an issue. Because even though culpable acts are almost always individual acts, blame is often shared widely. When an individual's ethnicity, nationality, religion, beliefs or gender differs from their victim it seems inevitable that -- just as our laudable acts sometimes reflect positively on others who look, dress or act like us in other ways -- those culpable acts reflect negatively on others as well.
When that happens instead of being part of that communal drawing together even well intentioned good acts can prompt exclusion and rejection --as happened when Mayor Giuliani rejected the 10 million dollars offered by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal-- while the absence of any response can prompt suspicion and condemnation --as happened throughout America and much of the rest of the world-- leaving everyone with damaged relationships, hurt feelings and sometimes even inappropriate retaliations, consequences that are unquestionably worse than having no relationship at all.
That's what happened after 9/11, and it's what Muslims are afraid is going to happen after the Boston Bombing, whether al Qaeda did it or not. The thing we all need to remember is this: Rupture between America and America's Muslims was Osama bin Laden's express intent, far beyond the human suffering that makes up his primary legacy.
I've blogged before about him, and how Muslim prophecy predicted that one day Islam would be afflicted by a charismatic Arab leader, an Arab man with the heart of a demon, who would draw the world into conflict and call to us from the gates of hell. But I don't think we've realized that it's what America (and my own beloved Canada) IS -- a nation of immigrants, Muslims among them; a multi-cultural melting pot of diverse people's realizing that simply being a people makes them one, a people cemented together by those many acts of neighborly kindness, some smaller and some greater, that confirm that what we are we are for the sake of each-other -- that is our strength, our threat to evil men like bin Laden, and part of the Dao, of the path that was walked by the Buddha, and by Jesus and by Muhammad as well, who told his followers
"By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!" It was said, "Who is that, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil."
Those Muslims (and some non-Muslims too) who want to pretend Muhammad cared for Muslims alone run smack up against the Constitution of Medina he authored, his promises to and behavior toward the Christians and Jews under his governance -- those that weren't guilty of treason or trying to exterminate Muslims en masse -- and the example left by the first four "rightly guided" caliphs. And they do so in ignorance of the Quran as well, that proclaimed our Creator gave us different tribes with different paths for a good reason, and that that good reason was to help us learn to live together despite those differences.
Simple, all consuming hate is the ideology that drives mass murder: hatred for everyone. Regardless of any given mass murderer's ideology, they share a chilling disregard for the identity of their victims. The Boston Marathon bombers proved they hate us all together regardless of their victims' backgrounds because they attacked us all together, without discrimination: no matter whom they killed, they would be happy to have killed us all. And that's why I strive so strenuously against those among us who can't imagine a better world for everyone, made better exactly because we live in it together. For that idea to win, for the terrorists to win, for hate to win, all they need to do is to take away our greatest strength, which is each-other.
However the good news is this: in order to beat bin Laden and those like him, in order to live on the path to peace proclaimed by all God's prophets together, all the rest of us need to do is be neighbors, do something good for each-other when we can, and get along.
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