Betrayed as a Marine and a Muslim

I’m a Muslim and a U.S. Marine. It’s unacceptable that four of my brothers were killed in Chattanooga.

Muslims are taught that during the month of Ramadan, Satan and his influences are locked up and the gates of Paradise are wide open. However, I have found — and with heart-breaking realization — that the evil within the hearts of mankind can still prevail.

I learned of the tragedy in Chattanooga after work. A close friend of mine asked me would I be responding and when I asked him to what, he gave me the devastating news. Instantly, I was choked up, my eyes filled with tears, and though my heart was overrun with sadness, the rage and anger began to smolder beneath. It was déjà vu for me all over again. I similarly received news in this manner when Nidal Hassan attacked fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood. Then, as today, I gripped the steering wheel tightly and fought back tears and my urge to scream.

Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and so is the killing of innocent people — but neither mattered to this killer.

I’m a Marine. I state that with pride, honor, and as a matter of fact. I left for Parris Island when I was 17 years old and earned the title of U.S. Marine. To hear that four of my brothers were attacked instantly filled me with rage. I’m not ashamed to admit this, but the complex emotions that swam around inside overwhelmed me with a profound grief — a grief that even now I can’t truly articulate.

Asking in my head over and over “how could he?” did not do much for my psyche as I made my way through D.C. traffic. Listening to the news on the radio surely didn’t help either.

All of this at the end of Ramadan. The conclusion of a month of fasting, prayers, and trying to be the best person you can be. Revulsion is what I feel — what many Muslims feel. It’s terrible enough that the killer committed such a crime in general, but on the last day of Ramadan? It takes a seriously sick individual to call himself a Muslim (if, in fact, that’s what the killer did) and commit an atrocity like this.

Was he radicalized, whatever that means? Was he devout? Mainstream media is sure throwing the term around. Though, I was not surprised to hear the terrorist was cited for a DUI in April. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and so is the killing of innocent people — but neither of those things mattered to this killer. We may never know what motivated him, but we do know that his actions have caused a lot of grief and pain for the family and the nation.

I feel betrayed as a Muslim, because when these things happen, we all collectively get blamed.

As a Muslim and a Marine, terms and titles I never believed to be mutually exclusive, I find this attack unconscionable and condemn it with no condition. I never met the victims, but they are my brothers. They earned the title like I did, served their country like I did, and they did not deserve to die by this madman. They are heroes in my book and should be honored.

I feel betrayed as a Muslim, because when these things happen, we all collectively get blamed.

I have served my country my entire adult life. I don’t know anything else, but when these evil people who call themselves Muslims and commit crimes against humanity like this, they fully realize the admonishing in the Qur’an that states when one takes the life of another unjustly, it’s as if he killed all mankind. My wife and children and many other American Muslims must now be on the alert because of the collective blame that is leveled against us.

This must remain about the victims and their families, but we can’t exclude the reality that is being Muslim in America.

For instance, there was a racially motivated terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina last month and the media refused to call it terrorism. Yet, in a similar hate-filled attack, the media does not hesitate to call this crime terrorism — because, naturally, only Muslims can be terrorists, right?

I grieve with my Corps and my country, and I have faith that things will eventually get better.

I truly wish in my heart of hearts the killer was a devout Muslim. If he were a devout Muslim, he would have been celebrating the end of Ramadan and planning to join in the Eid festivities and prayers. He would have been fasting, praying for peace, and giving charity like the rest of us — and trying to counter terror with love, like the many Muslims who raised nearly $100,000 for the black churches that were set on fire last month.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the evil intentions that produce hate against our fellow man go away, but I don’t. Instead I’ll join in with the billion peaceful, well-intention Muslims around the world in praying for a better tomorrow.

Our Corps of Marines were dealt a heavy blow, but we are forever strong and will persevere through our grief. My ummah will face more scrutiny and challenges here in America in the days ahead, but our faith in God and in humanity will bring us through. I pray for a better, more peaceful, world and country. I pray that no family will ever have to experience what these victims have experienced today. I grieve with my Corps and my country, and I have faith that things will eventually get better. May the peace and blessings of God be on us all.

Semper Fidelis.

Image courtesy of Militarist / Shutterstock.com. 

Robert Salaam
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  • bakabomb

    Thank you. As-salaam aleikum.

  • Sam

    Ameen.