I’m writing this mostly so my family overseas knows whatâ€™s been going on here. Being overseas you’re totally disconnected from world events and the things that are going on even if you read the news websites, it’s just not the same.
So this week in review:
This week has been like a really crazy, terrifying roller coaster ride. On Monday I was online surfing Facebook when I noticed Altaf had a status update saying he was extremely grieved at what was happening at Virginia Tech. I hurried to open up google news to read the horrible news: A shooter had killed a number of students at Virginia Tech.
My first thought was for the Muslims I knew there so I checked Nassiba’s facebook and sent her a message. I inspected her timings and it seemed like she had been online in the afternoon so seemed to be safe. Khaled had a note up asking all his friends to reply back with “I’m okay” if they were okay, The note kept growing in size and most of the ppl on his list seemed to be ok.
My second thought (perhaps even my first) was: ‘Please God, let it not be a “Muslim”‘. I ran downstairs to check the news and they all had special reports. One eyewitness said that the shooter was an ‘Asian’ man. In the UK this means Desi (Indo-pak) but here it means like Chinese or Japanese so I was a tiny bit relieved by that. The fact is, if he was “Muslim” or claimed to be or connected to anything Islamic; this country would go into shut-down mode. Muslims would have been harassed, beaten up, hijabs pulled off, mosques burned. I have no doubt of it. Illegal wiretapping, unlimited detentions, extraordinary rendition, racial profiling, stings, what else the government would do to us out of revenge I don’t know. The internment camps we heard that Halliburton was building might have become a reality.
When the news reported that he had chained the doors closed before he went in, I knew that he could not be Muslim.
I continued to watch the news all day and read whatever articles I could on the internet. It is just unbelievable to me even thinking about it now that a human being could do this to other people. All of the stories started pouring in from the victims’ families. One of the first was a Lebanese Christian girl named Reema who some of the Muslim sites thought was Muslim at first because of her name. I looked at her pictures on Facebook and she was a typical beautiful Lebanese girl with a ton of friends. Portraits of her whole family were there mom, dad, brothers and sisters and if you did a search of her name, her profile was still on facebook as well! A girl looking back at me that was no more. Under one picture of her and two friends she had written a comment herself that said “lol we look ghostly don’t we”. It was incredibly sad. I also watched an interview of her brother and sister talking about her and it just reminded me of my own brothers and sisters and how close we were when we were younger.
The next day they released the name of the shooter and as the day progressed we learned more and more about him and how he fit the typical profile of a school shooter… alienated quiet, with many mental issues and warning signs that went unheeded. Then on Wednesday at 5 o’ clock the biggest shocker of them all. The shooter had, between his killings, mailed a package to the news media with his writings, videos and pictures. I think my heart literally stopped. We were then shown this quiet introverted kid looking at the camera as if he was in a big budget film, brandishing guns and knives at the viewer and himself and then videos of himself telling us about his anger and hatred and what he was going to do. It was all just sooo horrifying and disgusting. One picture shows him pointing the gun straight at the camera with his full face behind it looking right at the viewer. Because the background is a little unfocused, and the gun in the foreground, it almost looks 3-D life like. Nausea hit me when the thought crossed my mind that this is exactly what those poor students must have seen at the last moments before their death. I still can’t believe, can’t understand how a person can have absolutely no empathy or compassion or any feeling whatsoever towards other people. And these were students like him. All living there, going to school, going through the same problems and struggles. They had family, they had dreams. I know he was sick or whatever… mentally ill, had paranoid schizophrenia, etc but it’s just so unspeakable, soo wrong. However sick he was he just had no conscience whatsoever. That to me is incomprehensible.
Anyway I feel better writing all this out. I know some people have been saying this is how many innocent Iraqis die every day and no one says or feels anything. And I know many suffering people around the world don’t understand about this either because they’ve been through so much more everyday, but you just cannot be unfeeling when you hear and watch this news. The New York Times website had an interactive time-lapse showing the footsteps of the shooter and how he basically went right into a hallway that had classrooms on both sides and went into every single one trying to kill every single person. One classroom was empty because the professor had canceled the class and the TA also canceled it. They know now it is the luckiest thing that ever happened to them. The NYT website also had an interactive panel of all the victims; all lined up like a yearbook. If you click on each one it tells you their name, age, some things about them. To see all those smiling faces, all that life, is just so heartbreaking.
We also slowly learned about a Muslim brother who died named Waleed Shaalan. And it’s not even just that he died, but how he died. Already shot and lying next to a student pretending to be dead, he distracted the shooter so the other student could live. What makes a person do that? Here is a young man from Egypt, 31, recently married, with a one year old baby boy being educated in the US at a great engineering school and he sacrifices his life for the ‘greater good’, so another could live. SubhanAllah.
On the second day the police also released the information that they found the words “ismail ax” written on the dead shooter’s arm with red pen. Of course, this started a blogger fit of what I like to call “asinine islamophobic crazed theories out of thin airâ€ like the shooter was secretly a “mozlim terrorist” and this was his “jeehaad” etc. I was so absolutely frustrated and disheartened. Two little words like tiny drops into a huge pool would now blacken and cloud everything, and we’re condemned to being terrorists again. Again, our religion started being dragged through the mud, our prophet called horrible names and so on. I went to sleep that night praying that they would please, please find anything, more information that would disprove the ridiculous theories and Islam haters. The irony is that as Muslims we’re taught that even to break branches off a tree or to hurt even a tiny ant unnecessarily is wrong, and yet we’re labeled as the terrorists.
Of course the next day was when they discovered the package, so my dua came true, but at what expense. On the package his return address is listed as “A. Ishmael” the biblical spelling proving he really seemed to have picked ismail/ishmael for some other reason (the first writing also started appearing in articles spelled as “ismiel ax”) Hopefully finally putting to rest that he had had nothing to do with Islam or Muslims and that the words could mean anything from a reference to a character in Moby dick to a poem to a biblical character. Then in his manifesto he says things like “Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenceless people”?!! Ugh
I personally think NBC should not have shown all of what they did, how they did. They did exactly what the shooter wanted — made him famous and published his mad writings to the world. Won’t this encourage other megalomaniac, messed up kids in the future and in the meantime traumatize the victim’s families yet again.
Then yesterday I heard about a sister in our community who had a car accident and seemed to be very bad at Albany Med. This whole week I’ve been meeting/hearing about so many of my old friends and how they’ve gotten married/had kids, reminding me of how old I am and how time completely flies. Girls that I remember at 15 now have two or three kids. Kids that walk and talk and go to school! It’s like I blink and everything has changed. How did our world become so different, complex and difficult now.
Lastly, tonight’s PBS documentary in their America at a Crossroads series was on Security versus Liberty. They tried to highlight a few things going on like how the gov’t is monitoring what books/who was doing what at the library, how they were now wiretapping everyone without need of warrant, how the telecom industry was basically in collusion with them storing all of our phone calls and emails. They also highlighted the Albany case and the use of stings and how they were finding “potential” people and making them into criminals, but what they ended up showing was the prosecutions case! with no rebuttals or addendums, guilty all the way. They interspersed that with only one quote from each lawyer and two quotes from the president of the mosque. I heard from others that the whole week of documentaries were equally biased and messed up.
Finally, the moral or lesson of this week… I don’t know… it’s been horrifying, emotional, angry, reflective, depressing..
Maybe next week will be better.