By Dr Muzammil H. Siddiqi

 

Newtown Tragedy: A Wakeup Call

 

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ {الأنبياء 35}

Every soul is certain to taste death. We shall test you all through the bad and the good as a trial, and to Us you will all return (Al-Anbiya’ 21:35)

Last Friday a horrible tragedy happened in Newtown, Connecticut. 26 people – among them 20 little children aged 6-7 – were massacred in an elementary school by a 20 year old young man. It was sad to see those who were killed but also sad to see the young person who was reported to have killed them. There is no one with a human heart who will not grieve at this horror. This tragedy has touched the whole nation. For the whole week politicians, religious leaders and media have been talking about this ‘evil that visited the Newtown community.’ The Shura Council of Southern California immediately issued a statement on behalf of the Muslims of Southern California expressing our deep sorrow at this tragedy & also dedicated a Scholarship Fund for the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (If you are interested to contribute to this fund, please visit: www.shuracouncil.org ).

Our response, however, should not be just sadness and sorrow; we as Americans must do some soul searching and examine ourselves as a nation. What is happening to us and why? What are the causes of violence here and in many other places in the world? We, as Muslim Americans should be as much concerned as anyone else and it is our duty to help find the right solutions.

The attack that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown can happen at any school or at any place in any city or state. It can happen to any person or group and it is happening all over. None of us should feel immune or secure. Shortly after the attack, President Obama said, “As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

I hope everyone will follow this advice, including the President himself. I emphasize his words, ‘regardless of the politics.’ It is unfortunate that most of the time sincere and meaningful actions are missing and politics takes over. We need wholesome solutions to go to the roots of this menace. Most of the discussion at present is focused on gun control. There is going to be a fierce debate on this subject in the coming weeks. I hope our leaders will be able to enact some sensible rules on gun control and begin to invest resources in fostering a culture that values life, justice and humanity - because policies alone do not change a society – values and principles do.

Among all the countries of the world, especially among those that have no apparent political conflict, America has the largest number of gun owners. According to one report, in a population of about 312 million people in the U.S., we have nearly 310 million firearms. This is without including the weapons on our military bases. It is estimated that nearly 118 million handguns are available for sale in the U.S. (See www.nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/ 12/18/2012). According to FBI statistics, in 2011, there were 14,612 murders in the U.S. That is more than 40 murders per day. California has the largest number of murderers in this country. Add to this the growing number of militias in every state and the increase in drug addictions and other social and psychological problems. Who is going to challenge this culture of violence and who is going to speak about all this ‘regardless of politics?’

The traditional families have been the upholders of love, care, peace and harmony, but our families are falling apart. A new culture of gay marriages is being promoted. The divorce rate is about 49% among American families in general. American Muslim families also have about a 30% divorce rate. So we are not lagging far behind others in this social problem. Many children are being raised by single parents. It is terrible that we are a leading nation in abortions, killing unborn babies. Every year about 1.2 million abortions take place. The statistics show that since 1973 in America more than 54 million unborn babies have been killed through abortion. Who will take their cause ‘regardless of politics?’

Look at the amount of violence that is promoted by television, movies and video games. The Media Education Foundation says that research indicates that media violence has not just increased in quantity, it has also become more graphic, sexual, and sadistic. By the time the average child is eighteen years old, they will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders. Most of the top-selling video games (89%) contain violent content, almost half of which is of a serious nature. Nearly 75 percent of violent scenes on television feature no immediate punishment for or condemnation of violence. (see: www.mediaed.org )

The United States’ government’s inhuman treatment of its political prisoners and its unmaned drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are going on at will. There is no stop to these illegal and extra judicial killings. How many children have been killed in these attacks as so-called ‘collateral damage?’ We have rightly shed tears on the killing of 20 innocent young children in Newtown. But what pain, shame, repentance and remorse do we have when we see that our own government has caused the death of hundreds, nay thousands of little children in other lands. Who is willing to stop – or even speak out against – this death and destruction ‘regardless of politics?’

It is the duty of all Americans of all religions and cultures to do that, and soon. America has resources and talents to do much good to the world. If we fail then we should remember what Thomas Jefferson (d. 1826), the Third President of United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) once said, “ Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep for ever. . .” (These words are inscribed on the wall of Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC).

Allah says in the Qur’an:

ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللّهَ لَمْ يَكُ مُغَيِّرًا نِّعْمَةً أَنْعَمَهَا عَلَى قَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ {الأنفال 53}

That is because Allah would never change a favor He had conferred on a people unless they changed what is within themselves. Allah is all hearing and all knowing. (Al-Anfal 8:53)

Allah also says,

...إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلاَ مَرَدَّ لَهُ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ {الرعد 11}

…. Allah does not change the condition of a people, unless they change what is in themselves. When Allah wills harm on a people, no one can ward it off. Apart from Him they have no protector. (Al-Ra’d 13:11)

In the first verse from Surah al-Anfal, Allah says that His bounties are many and He keeps on bestowing His bounties upon human beings, until they themselves corrupt their condition and then they begin losing the blessings. In the second verse of Surah al-Ra’d, Allah gives us hope that we can still regain His kindness and mercy if we improve ourselves and try to make ourselves a little better.

May Allah bless us all. May He help us to do what is right and save us from all evils and difficulties in this world and in the Hereafter. Ameen. (Khutbah at ISOC – Safar 8, 1434/ December 21, 2012)

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