The greatest tragedy in yesterday’s shooting at the Fort Hood military base was the death of 13 American soldiers, not to mention the life-changing impact on the 30 injured. This is the human tragedy. And there is Major Nidal M. Hassan’s violent breach of the sanctity of the American military and its commitment to respect and trust between its personnel. When one considers the roughly 20,000 Muslims serving in the American military, this is particularly shocking. This is the American tragedy.
Yet as a Muslim, I cannot deny my heartache at the potential impact of this horrific event on the American Muslim community. When I heard the news, my initial reaction was shock and sorrow. How could this happen? What will the families of the victims do? Who would do this? Are my friends and family who serve in the armed forces safe? I prayed that the victims’ families and the other soldiers involved would feel peace and comfort in spite of their fear and suffering. I prayed for our country. A distressing thought then crossed my mind…and it lingered. What if the perpetrator was a Muslim?
When Hassan’s identity was confirmed, my heart sank even further. I grieved for my community and country. Nothing is more damaging to American attitudes towards Islam and Muslims than senseless acts of violence such as that carried out by Hassan. Nothing.
(ASMA statement on the Ford Hood Tragedy)
I am, however, encouraged by the restraint shown in the media, not immediately assuming Hassan’s motives were religious per se. I am also heartened by the firm denouncements and thoughtful responses from Muslim organizations and ordinary Muslims across the country and globe. Muslim have unequivocally drawn the line in the sand: This does not represent us. We abhor this act. Violence in the name of Islam will be rejected (see Jihad Against Violence statement). Now, let’s pick ourselves up and continue to build a country and world based on mutual understanding, respect and peace.
The links below represent just a few of the responses from the American-Muslim community, in particular from our network of Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow, one of the largest networks of global Muslim leaders representing the next generation (visit website).
Wajahat Ali, “Fort Hood Has Enough Victims Already,” Guardian, Friday, November 6, 2009
Arsalan Iftikhar, “Prayers for Fort Hood Tonight…,” True Slant,Thursday, November 5, 2009
Shahed Amanullah, “Treachery at Fort Hood,” AltMuslim Thursday, November 5, 2009
Others have expressed deep sympathy and support for the families affected by this tragedy.
“I am deeply saddened and extend my prayers to the victims, their families, and to the dedicated first responders who rushed to the scene. Like others, I want to know how and why this happened, but I believe that we should allow the Army and federal authorities the space to investigate before we rush to judgment.” Asim Rehman, President of the Muslim Bar Association of New York.
“My heartfelt condolences and prayers of support go to the families of the victims and the injured veterans. The events at Fort Hood are horrific, deplorable and criminal. This man’s religion has nothing to do with my Islam.” Sayyeda Mirza-Jafri, Philanthropy Consultant
“I feel very sad about the terrible events at Fort Hood. My heart goes out to the families of the victims and their fellow soldiers. On the other hand, just like many fellow Muslim Americans, I feel worried that the Fort Hood incident will put a negative light on Muslim American soldiers and civilians and make people distrust them. I truly hope that President Obama will address these concerns and any potential backlash against US Muslims – both military and civilian. Yes, we have elected the first black president, but true equality will come only when tragic incidents such as one at Fort Hood will be seen for what they are and will not be closely linked to religious or ethnic identity.” Nadira Artyk, Journalist
“In such tragedies one can’t help but feel saddened by the loss of precious human lives. My deepest sympathy goes to the family and friends of those soldiers who are victims of this tragedy.” Samer Saleh, Financial Consultant
“I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased, who were no doubt amongst the bravest Americans. While it’s never easy to know what brought about such violence in an individual, I do know that it is completely inconsistent with the teachings of Islam and in fact all religious traditions. My heart goes out to all those affected by this tragedy.” Shenila Khoja-Moolji, Graduate Student, Harvard University
As we await further details on the attack, my sincere hope is that Americans will continue to demonstrate compassion and thoughtfulness. How can we support the victims and their families? How can we prevent future violence? How can we rally around each other and reinforce our collective commitments to our country? To manipulate this already heart-wrenching event in order to promote fear, stereotyping, and violence would be another tragedy. And it would be an affront to the legacy of the brave victims who stood daily for our country’s values: opportunity for all, respect for difference and peace.