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Musings: Thoughts On And Prayers For San Bernardino

Yet another tragedy has taken place on our US soil in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. This time in San Bernardino, where a reported 14 people have been murdered. How should we react to this increasing form of violence that is escalating at a rapid rate?

As a practicing Muslim I do condemn these acts and urge other Muslims to do the same. The true tradition of Islam is not violence. ISIS is a cult not a religion! They are not much different than hate groups such as the KKK, the Nazis, the Crusades or Mossad. Essentially we have challenges in all faiths. The three largest religions teach the same principles of love and nonviolence. Jews follow Abraham; Christians follow Lord Jesus and Muslims follow the Prophet Muhammad. All of these 3 faiths pray to the same God – the God of Abraham!

There are approximately 3 million Muslims in the United States, almost all of who are law-abiding citizens. It is also important to remember that there are 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet. If you took the total number of deaths from terrorism last year – about 30,000 – and assumed that 50 people were involved in planning each one (a vastly exaggerated estimate), it would still add up to less than 0.1% of the world’s Muslims Even after the San Bernardino shootings, the number of Americans killed by Islamist terrorists on US soil in the 14 years since September 11 is 45 – an average of about three people a year. The number killed in gun homicides this year alone will be about 11,000, as reported by Fareed Zakaria last Sunday on his popular show called GPS – the Global Public Square.

For years people have asked me how I took the course of forgiveness and peacemaking rather than the expected rage and revenge after my only son Tariq was shot and killed. After Tariq was murdered by a 14-old-gang member in a random and senseless initiation killing – I saw that there were victims on both sides of the gun and founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (www.TKF.org). I then reached out in forgiveness to the grandfather and guardian of my son’s killer. Twenty years later we are still together teaching kids the principles of nonviolence, empathy, compassion, forgiveness and most importantly peacemaking.

And yet, of course, the tragedies keep coming. And people continue to look for someone to blame.

Since the September 11 terrorist attack, the Paris attacks and the recent tragedy in San Bernardino, non-Muslims are even more curious about the teachings of my faith. After all, our news is full of militant Islam, of Muslim terrorists killing innocents, and quoting the Koran as their guide. But true Muslims recognize the course I have taken.

I think you recognize the teachings that guided me – all faiths teach forgiveness, compassion, and taking care of each other. All faiths admonish us not to kill. Islam speaks respectfully of the people of the book, all those who follow the teachings of Muhammad and the prophets who preceded him in bringing God’s message to the world. The Qur’an tells us that all the people of the book worship the same God.

Our prophet, our messenger, brought us the teaching that all human beings were formed into nations and tribes “so that we may know one another, not to conquer, subjugate, revile or slaughter, but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding.”

The Qur’an tells us that whosoever kills one innocent human being, “It shall be as if he has killed all humankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he has saved the life of all humankind.”

The Qur’an tells us that Islam cannot be spread by the sword, that the faith cannot be forced on others.

Like many of you I do not like everything about the times we live in. I imagine that each of us has our concerns about aspects of the world around us. So we work to change those things – to make our world a better place, but not to return to a world that has been gone for centuries. In the news of late, ISIS has been identified as a doomsday cult organized around the belief that it is engaged in a final, apocalyptic struggle with crusaders and their sinful acts. This ideology may belong in the 7th Century – LET US NOT GO BACK TO THAT WORLD! Let us be reminded by the wise words of Gandhi: “An eye for an eye and soon the whole world is blind.”

I choose to work for change as an American and as a Muslim, making my stand in this, the 21st Century. For whatever it is worth to you and to our country, as we deal with our losses and the threats against us, I offer my own experience of grief transformed into compassionate action.

Every faith, every moral teacher has taught us the same basic truths. It will take all our courage to act on those truths, but there is no surer way to real victory.

And what will victory look like? My vision has been a world in which our children do not kill each other. Now, for all of us – more so than ever before – as individuals and as a nation, the vision must be a world in which we indeed reach out to each other with intelligence and understanding, ending the suffering that breeds violence … creating a world at peace.

It is possible. Inshallah.

Best Wishes,
Azim Khamisa
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Azim Khamisa

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