A Faithful Word

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Hesham A. Hassaballa

Hesham A. Hassaballa
Location
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Birthday
July 08
Bio
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago doctor and writer. He has written extensively on a freelance basis, being published in newspapers across the country and around the world. His articles have been distributed world wide by Agence Global as well. He has been a Beliefnet columnist since 2001, and has written for the Religion News Service. He is also a guest blogger for The Chicago Tribune. Dr. Hassaballa is author of the essay "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam (Rodale). He is also co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday). His latest book of poetry about the Prophet Muhammad, Noble Brother, has been published by Faithful Word Press. In 2007, his blog, God, Faith, and a Pen, was nominated for a Brass Crescent Award for a blog that is "the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophical, providing the best rebuttals to extremist ideology and making an impact whenever they post."

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AUGUST 10, 2012 6:48PM

We Have Done Nothing Wrong, Either

Rate: 8 Flag


"Biggest question we have is this a hate crime, I mean what did we do wrong?"

That was a question asked by a member of the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in the immediate aftermath of the domestic suicide terrorist attack in Wisconsin on August 5.

The answer is simple: nothing.

That community of Sikhs, as well all the other Sikhs who have been viciously attacked for decades in this country, has done nothing wrong. They did not deserve to be massacred in their own house of worship.

Yet - and it is heartening that so many voices are beginning to say the same thing - American Muslims have done nothing wrong, either. It would have been just as horrific if the shooting had taken place at a mosque, rather than a Sikh gurudwara. Professor Moustafa Bayoumi, writing in The Nationmagazine, said:

It’s true that we don’t yet know Page’s precise motivations, but in all likelihood it wasn’t Sikhophobia, a term barely known in the United States. It was Islamophobia. That’s why to say that Page made a “mistake” in targeting Sikhs, as many have reported, or that Sikhs are “unfairly” targeted as Muslims, as CNN stated, is to imply that it would be “correct” to attack Muslims. Well, it’s not, and even if this is an error embedded in the routine carelessness of cable news, we need to be attentive to the implications.

The same has been said by Muslim scholar Reza Aslan:

Islamophobia has become so mainstream in this country that Americans have been trained to expect violence against Muslims — not excuse it, but expect it. And that’s happened because you have an Islamophobia industry in this country devoted to making Americans think there’s an enemy within.

Yes, some individuals within the community have either plotted or actually committed acts of terrorism, and they must be - and have been repeatedly - condemned. But as a whole, the community has done nothing wrong. The facts back this up. As Steve Coll writes in The New Yorker:

Of the three hundred domestic-terrorism cases studied, about a quarter arose from anti-government extremists, white supremacists, or terrorists animated by bias against another religion. And all of the most frightening cases—involving chemical, biological, and radiological materials—arose from right-wing extremists or anarchists. None arose from Islamist militancy.

The data can be found here. Nevertheless, American Muslims have done nothing wrong to deserve to get attacked and have their houses of worship attacked as well. Glenn Greenwald summarized just some of the attacks against mosques in the U.S.:

This is [the Joplin, Missouri mosque arson], of course, far from the only incident of its kind; to the contrary, in a trend largely ignored by the American media, hate crimes against American Muslims are at epidemic levels. After a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee triggered intense community opposition when it attempted to expand in 2010, a fire that was ruled to be arson damaged the mosque; after facing years of vandalism, bomb threats, and efforts by local and state officials (including state judges) to block its expansion, the mosque was finally able to open only this week only after the DOJ and a federal judge (to their credit) intervened on the ground that the mosque’s religious liberty was being infringed.

In October of last year, a Texas man pled guilty “to a hate crime charge stemming from an arson of a children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Center in Arlington,” and admitted that the fire was “part of a series of ethnically-motivated acts directed at individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern descent associated with the mosque.” In August of last year, an Oregon man was indicted “on federal hate crime and arson charges for intentionally setting fire to the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center.” In May of last year, a fire at a mosque in Stockton, California was ruled to be arsonLast year in southwest Houston, surveillance cameras “captured images of a group of at least three men in masks” attempting to set fire to a local mosque; “prayer rugs at the back of the mosque were doused with gasoline.”

Last year in Dearborn, Michigan, a serious attack on one of the nation’s largest mosques was thwarted when a man was arrested carrying large amounts of explosives. In Massachusetts last year, the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester was set on fire by a man apprehended before the fire could spread. A fire that seriously damaged a mosque in Wichita, Kansas on Halloween night last year was ruled to be arson. In July of this year, a South Carolina mosque was vandalized; such vandalism against American mosques is incredibly common. On the 4th of July this year, the home of a Pakistani Muslim family in Texas, who have lived in the U.S. for 15 years, had the word “Terrorist” spray-painted onto it and then had ignited fireworks left on their doorstep. Attacks this common and dangerous on churches or synagogues would be a national scandal.

An attack against any innocent human being - regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion - is completely scandalous. An attack against any house of worship is equally scandalous. Those soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas did not deserve to die. The same goes for those Sikh worshipers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. But, just as my Sikh brother asked "What did we do wrong?" after that horrific attack, it must be said that we American Muslims have done nothing wrong, either.

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As I commented on your previous post:

A notable mix of evil and stupid.

This guy attempted to attack one group who didn't deserve it but mistakenly attacked a second group who didn't deserve it.

We assume it was an error because there isn't even an existing invalid case against Sikhs, unlike Muslims, who do have an existing invalid case against them/you.
It has been my experience that Muslims have an extremely strong sense of moral commitment. They have a ready understanding of what works for everyone. For the most part, if the Christian majority here, adhered to their faith as Muslims do, we would have a far better place. We have gone soft on even our beliefs, which is, for many, a part time venture.
When extremist groups commit -- or contemplate these horrible acts -- they must ask, What would our leader say? If they can answer this, then they are not doing this in the name of their own faith -- but committing this in some act of insane ego or delusion.
When will we ever learn?
I agree with all you have pointed out in your post and with the comments of Kosher and Inthisdeepcalm.

R
My initial response to the title of your post was Bullshit. A closer look indicates that it wasn’t about “we” all the people of America but Muslims. Muslims certainly have been blamed for many things and frankly my own personal opinion is that the Muslim religion has as many problems as the Christian religion and other religion. However when it comes to the war on terror and how it has been handled I would have to agree the objections I have to religion, Muslim or Christian, are trivial compared to the serious flaws in the government activity.

The problems go into a long history of deceptive activities in the world that go back decades including coups in Iran, Guatemala and many other places that have been almost forgotten by the corporate propaganda machine. These activities have been the main catalyst for the war on terror not the people labeled terrorists although they have become a problem due to the fact that they have been incited so much by the CIA and other international institutions.

As for my gut response of “Bullshit” which was intended to the majority of Americans as much as the authoritarians that have created this mess, it can be summed up in the old quote, “for evil to triumph all that has to happen is for good people to do nothing.”

If the majority of us continue to stand by and let the corporations and authoritarian fanatics control the political system we will be allowing society to escalate it’s own collapse whether we accept blame or not.
Zachery,
True, but Hesham's point is different. The Wisconsin attack was probably a mistake in terms of its targeted population, and this has been pointed out. The Sikhs are not associated with anything bad that has happened to the United States. The implication of this observation is that an illegitimate target was selected because it was mistaken for a legitimate target. Hesham's point is that the presumably intended target isn't legitimate either.

He's right, of course. We've already been through this particular debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, and I said what I had to say about that in a post at the time. To summarize: Islam is huge and diverse. Blaming all of Islam for what Al Qaida and its allies does is like blaming all of Christianity for what the Moral Majority does; in fact, worse. Blaming all of Islam for what Al Qaida does has the further disadvantage of helping Al Qaida, giving them the status in many circles of somehow being in charge of international Islam. In the New York case, blaming Sufis for Al Qaida's actions (the Ground Zero Mosque was a Sufi project) would be like blaming the Quakers for the actions of the Moral Majority.

American Muslims are absolutely not a legitimate target. As Hesham says, they have done nothing wrong, either.
It was probably a case of mistaken identity, but haters hate. They won't take the effort to learn enough about others to discriminate between Sihks and Muslims. If they learned that much they might learn enough about the object of their hate to have their prejudices called into question. r
I have read this post but how can we say that person who attacked on temple or any place where Muslims goes are one of sikh or Muslim they can be some one else who have been trained for this and try to destroy the peace of united state.

this fight is not only in USA but if you watch news its seems it is every where I have seen about burma where muslims are killed like nothing but I have not seen media talking about them but I have seen an Israeli die and its become war in palatine we must think we are human and this world need human we can not live our life with animals.

Thank You
Research Team Lead
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A lack of knowledge in the mind of one who is ignorant and inclined to hate is a deadly, awful combustible combination. The shooting happened in my hometown of Oak Creek (wrote about it last week for Open Salon) and so this latest outburst of evil madness hits close to me.

You did nothing wrong. The shooting victims did nothing wrong. But ignorance and hatred don't bother to consider facts and truth.

Well done story.
it's worrisome that this neo-nazi nutjob was hiding in plain sight for 10 years, spewing his racist views, and was vetted numerous times by local law enforcement and the FBI, and found NOT to be a threat, despite continuing to amass a stockpile of weapons.

and equally worrisome that the government made him a player in the world of psychological ops warfarer.

if there's a villian here, it's government agencies that not only couldn't protect us from this lunatic, but actually promoted him into positions of authority at one point.
This is a very necessary post. Your insights mirror those of one of the Sikh leaders who was conflicted about pointing out that Sikhs are not Muslims. He feared that such a remark would infer that it was somehow reasonable to target Muslims. I so admired the way the Sikh community showed such compassion and restraint in the midst of such unspeakable tragedy.
R
Such a senseless, awful tragedy. And something that no one ever deserves.
I seldom pass a week where I am reading or following the news that I do not hear or read people vetted as authorities making blatant statements of Islamophobia as an opportunity for others to then question or rebuttal- a means of raising emotions in what I feel is a cynical manipulation for ratings. Shouting for something and shouting against something have the same effect of diminishing a rational assessment.