Oct - Dec 2002, Other

When Muslims Must Handle Tragedies

By Edmund A. Arroyo

Asalamu Alaykum brothers and sisters,

Muslims must be cautious about how they deal with situations such as the DC sniper tragedy. First, I want to warn against attacks on the Nation of Islam by Muslims. It is acceptable to clarify our differences. However, we should caution against insults and mockery, even if it is in jest. I would like to believe that we are better than those who do the same to us.

Secondly, I want to caution all of my convert brothers and sisters about blame. All too often, we buy into these conspiracy theories on the Internet. We buy into rhetoric and platitudes that we hear in some conversation with other Muslims. As a result, we begin to deny and blame anyone and anything that is not Muslim. All this does is further isolate us and portray us as hypocrites. We invite to “the truth”, but try to deny it whenever it makes us look bad. In the case of these two sniper suspects, well, I do not doubt that he calls himself Muslim.

However, just as Christians do not have to defend themselves for every criminal that once claimed their religion, I don’t feel a need or duty to defend Islam because of some crazy sniper with the name Muhammad. We make ourselves look guilty when we feel the need to place the blame on someone else or when we deny the facts. This kind of behavior is exactly what breeds snipers and suicide bombers. The truth is that the Internet is not much better than the tabloids when it comes to reliability.

The truth is that we can best define Islam through our actions. Let us not define Islam by what we are not. All that does is continue to make us more foreign. If we continue to blame, we place ourselves as victims”and victims are helpless. We empower ourselves by embodying Islam in all that we do and say. Then people will know that a suicide bomber, a sniper, or any other killer, is just that, regardless of his religion.

Brothers and sisters, we need a different approach. When Islam spread quickly, it was because people saw the early Muslims and thought, “we want what they have, whatever it is.” NonMuslims saw the light in people’s faces and their good character. We have the best of examples in our Prophet pbuh, and he pbuh was a man of truth. I pray that we can all follow his example. Asalamu Alaykum wa rhama tullah.