How intact is our humanity? How much does it slip in the face of seemingly almost daily atrocities committed by a group or individuals who are professing only one reason for doing so….Islam?
I have a friend who is Egyptian. Or more accurately, he is an Egyptian-American immigrant. He has lived here in America for many years. He is married to an Egyptian woman and has three children who are his world. We work at the same place. He is intelligent and funny and an exemplary employee who holds a minor leadership role. I am proud to call him my friend.
He has very American hobbies and interests. However, I never mind it when he speaks his native tongue on the phone. I don’t mind that he proudly maintains dual-citizenship (which may be an Egyptian requirement, I can’t recall). I don’t mind it that he doesn’t eat pork or drink alcohol. I never mind it when he disappears from his work area to spend time on his prayer mat facing Mecca and showing a devotion that I struggle to achieve in my Christian efforts-as I’m certain no one would recall having seen me praying at work. He never proselytizes to me, nor I to him. He will gladly tell you of his extreme disdain for the Muslim Brotherhood and his pride in Egyptian efforts to thwart the organization. He will show true remorse and disgust as horrible events unfold in the news by groups claiming to do these things for the same God he worships.
All in all, of the few Muslim and/or Arab-Americans I’ve known personally who hail from foreign lands, he is what I would comfortably call ‘assimilated’ into our society. However, we have noticed that since the rise of ISIS, my Egyptian friend will immediately refuse to have a direct conversation about the group. I know that this is not because he feels any sort of faith-bond or affinity towards the vile organization, but rather, it seems almost a Harry Potter-esque, ‘one we do not mention’ sort of thing. It is as if merely speaking of them could have some ethereal effect on his perceived ‘Muslim wellbeing’. I believe this is what we as a civilization are up against as we puzzle over why so-called peace loving Muslims don’t loudly, publicly, and defiantly stand against this onslaught from the barbaric threat of ISIS, to as great or greater a degree as the western world does. Sadly, no matter how awful and despicable, and especially for Muslims, ISIS has taken on a mythical quality; One that can curse you at their very mention.
I worry for my friend and his family. When 9/11 occurred he was at work. I had not yet known him, but the stories go that he suffered some often harsh verbal harassment from a few co-workers that he once thought of as friends. It got bad enough that he chose to stop being called ‘Ahmed’ at work and took to being called ‘Al’. How sad is it that one must change his very name to counter an erroneously placed hateful perception? September 11th left so many in such a state of shock that while it is true some sporadic incidents of ugly ‘citizen backlash’ occurred, public perception seems to have thought it somehow limited or small in comparison to the gravity of the WTC attack.
The reason I worry for my friend is that the rate of terrorism or terror incidents has increased so dramatically since 9/11 and the rise of ISIS, that if an attack on the scale of the Paris Attacks took place immediately or the few days following, here in the US, there’d no longer be a sufficient state of shock as a buffer. The backlash doors may in fact blow wide open, and the incidences of ‘Billy Bobs’ dragging Muslims out of their homes or other such horrors would become seemingly unstoppable. In effect, all hell may truly break loose.
It seems almost as if the more The White House or other governments try to show humanitarianism toward supposed refugees or drum up hashtags to declare ‘Islam is not the problem’, the more each new horrible and deadly episode of terror makes a populous which is victimized by it declare the exact opposite in their minds.
One at once can assimilate, a dozen at once will isolate. Our governments are doing it wrong. They need to be as angry and as committed to burning out radical Islamist terrorists as their citizens are in hardening their hearts toward Islam as a whole. The longer they wait, the more our humanity, and our very notion of civilization is at stake.
Until then, I pray for my friend and for all of us, that our heads and hearts prevail over this far less than adequate handling of the threat before us. Islam may not be the problem, but I don’t know of any terrorists who are not Muslim, and that is the heart of the problem.