I was walking through my hospital one recent morning, and I looked out the window and beheld the American flag billowing in the breeze. It was truly beautiful, stirring my heart with love of country. When I see that flag, waving so proudly over the medical center’s campus, I think of the wondrous nature of my country: its beautiful blue skies, its amber waves of grain, its scenic ocean vistas, and its majestic mountain ranges. I think of the equally beautiful nature of her people – my people – who are kind and gentle, who welcome strangers into their hearts and neighborhoods, and who rally to help each other when in need. I think of the freedom for which that glorious symbol stands: the freedom to be who I want and worship the Lord however I see fit.
What I put out of my mind are the images of those four American Marines urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters, which surfaced on a YouTube video last week; or the picture of an American soldier next to a dead Afghan civilian, showing off his “trophy” kill. More than just because they are repugnant images, I refuse to dwell on such stains on the national character because I know – in my heart – that those pictures and video clips do not represent the truth of America. I know that America is not what those images portray. That flag, which is also printed on the arms of those soldiers, does not symbolize the horrific nature of those sad incidents.
Sadly, however, there are many around the world who do not go through a similar exercise. When they see the very same image of the American flag, they will only think of these horrible videos and pictures. They will only see the bad that our nation has done, never knowing that true nature of our goodness and purity, the one that I see each and every day. And if anyone – following a sick and criminal mindset – were to attack an innocent American anywhere in the world, or right here at home, seeking to “avenge” the terrible images on the video, it would be a horrible travesty, worthy of the strongest condemnation. We Americans are not those Marines in that video. The truth about America is different than what that video portrays.
The same thing goes with American Muslims. The actions of extremists and terrorists, acting in the name of Islam, do not reflect the truth about our faith and our people. Those terrorists are depraved and Satanic criminals, twisting the beautiful and universal principles of our faith to seek a depraved and evil end. Just as we Americans are not responsible for those Marines urinating on those corpses, we American Muslims are not responsible for the actions of criminal extremists who act in our name. Just as it is wrong to attack Americans anywhere in the world in “revenge,” it is equally wrong to attack Muslims, or their houses of worship, in “revenge” for the crimes of extremists, which, sadly, occurs ever too frequently here in America.
If anything good can come out of this terrible incident, it is perhaps that more people can understand that the whole should never be blamed or symbolized by the crimes of the very few. A Muslim woman, who is courageous enough to wear a headscarf in deference to her faith and love for God, does not symbolize terrorism any more than the American flag symbolizes the crimes of those American Marines urinating on those corpses. If more can understand this, we will be all the better, both as a people and as a nation at large.