In the wake of violence, Islam

Author, Katharine Gratwick aka Umm Muhemmed, penned the following article in the wake of the San Bernardino tragedy.  She, like every other Muslim she knows, condemns the tragic events, and seeks to find peaceful and constructive solutions, always. Her Islamic faith guides and inspires her.  The article was submitted to the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times on December 3, 2015 though was not published.

In the wake of violence, Islam

“It wasn’t me,” Hawa repeated, again and again. The refrain from her poem sounded out across an audience, accented by hijabs and topis–all nodding, knowing of what this young woman spoke.[1] Guilty until proven innocent. Guilty, by the simple act of association. Islam.

The long foretold clash of civilizations is upon us. Islam and the West are incompatible. One represents terror and intolerance; the other, freedom. They cannot coexist, or so mainstream media broadcasts day in, and out, on every conceivable platform. Good vs. evil. Truth vs. falsehood. The new Red Scare, the new ‘other’ needs to be contained.

This fiction cannot, however, be further from the truth. Islam and the West have coexisted for years. Both are porous, both adaptive. Islam vs. the West remains a false and dangerous dichotomy.

While every recognizable Islamic scholar has denounced terror, their voices are not picked up by mainstream media. Neither are other Muslim outlets such as CAIR, ISNA, and Unity Productions.[2] Their voices are drowned out by vitriol.  My neighbor says, ‘fear sells, and this is a business.’

Perhaps fear sells, but consider the other consequences. Fear breeds distrust, suspicion, hate and ultimately violence, none of which help a society to flourish. Cultivating mass fear destabilizes, all.

Of course there are very bad guys, but they are not universally Muslim. And it certainly wasn’t young Hawa. Muslims should not be on trial for the terror in our midst.

How then do we counteract the fear that is spread so widely, at present? We, all, today, start recognizing our common humanity. We are all connected–virtually and actually. We are global and local neighbors. Our similarities are much greater than any of our differences.

Let us meet each other, break bread together, discuss our fears and prejudices. Let us serve together, the elderly, the poor, and the environment. And let us exchange gifts.

This is not Utopian.  Instead, it is the only way to build dynamic and prosperous communities. Yes, let us start to recognize our common humanity, our real bonds. And let us go forth, and do good in the world, together.

Katharine Gratwick, a practicing Muslim, lives in Texas, with her family, and works as a development economist.  She is also the author of ‘Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America,’ which seek to show how Qur’aanic memorization may unfold in a family context, in twenty-first century America.  In her free time, together with her family, she helps coordinate multiple community efforts to promote environmental sustainability.

[1] Hawa a 16 year old, American-Muslim, performed her poem, “Boom, it wasn’t me,” at the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) conference in Chicago in August of 2015. ISNA is the largest organization of Muslims in the United States, conducting educational, advocacy, spiritual and charitable programs nation-wide.

[2] CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations. See Fact vs. Fiction released by Unity Productions following the shooting in Chapel Hill in February 2015.

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