By Jerrmein Abu Shahba
This holy month of Ramadan – a blessed period of time that is marked with peace, patience, and generosity. A month that is considered in the Islamic calendar to be one out of four of the sacred months where fighting is prohibited and shedding blood is considered a shameful act. A four-week period where every Muslim would and should feel most safe and secure from evil, hate, and bigotry. A time where Muslims themselves would and should be at their best behavior towards other fellow human beings regardless of faith, color, culture, or any other difference.
However, the Ramadan of 2017 proves not. Instead of peace and love, there are attacks of terror and aggression. Instead of respite and relief, there is an increase in shedding of Muslim blood. Instead of compassion and respect to the believers who are fasting, there is no food or drink offered to break one’s fast – instead there is only bullets and bombs to break not the fast, but end the life once and for all!
We find that in just 30 days across the globe, US and internationally, this holy month of Ramadan has been marred by several attacks against Muslims.
We find that on May 26, 2017, a man by the name of Jeremy Christian fatally stabbed two men of dignity who stood up and defended a 16 year old and her Muslim friend on a train in Portland, Oregon after he allegedly ranted and raved hate speech.
On June 7, 2017 there was the ISIS attack for the first time in Tehran, Iran in which extremist Sunni bombers killed 12 and injured more than 40 in a predominately Shia country. Armed assailants including disguised women attacked the Parliament building and the tomb of its revolutionary founder, the worst terrorist strike to hit the Islamic republic in years.
The UK terror attacks which has manifested over the past few months , attacks in London and one in Manchester, has caused a need for heightened police security particularly in Muslim areas of worship. We find that on June 3rd, a van hit pedestrians on London Bridge before three people got out and stabbed people nearby Borough Market. Sources say that ISIS attackers were behind this event. And on June 19th, a group of Muslim worshippers were hit as pedestrians when a van mounted the pavement and drove into Finsbury Park.
And then, there is the death of a teenage girl from Virginia, Nabra Hassanen who was murdered in cold blood after breaking her fast along with friends from her local mosque. Like many Muslims, Hassanen was fasting for Ramadan, and eating with community members only in the hours between sunset and sunrise.
While walking back from breakfast to her mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) of Sterling, Hassanen and her friends became involved in an altercation with a motorist, later identified as 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, also of Sterling, who threatened and chased them with a metal baseball bat, striking Hassanen. Police found Hassanen’s remains in a man-made pond in Sterling, near Torres’s apartment building, later that day. Detectives say that Torres struck Hassanen with a bat before returning with his car to assault a second time and dispose of her remains.
It is unfortunate that police have deemed this a case of road rage while clearly this tragic incident was none by a hate crime targeting Muslims in an era where Islamophobia has become widespread and rapidly investing like a contagious virus. It’s worth noting that women seem to disproportionately be the target of Islamophobia and perceived Islamophobic attacks, by virtue of their Islamic garb of Hijab.
The case of Hassanen is similar to that of the Chapel Hill shootings were three young Muslims where shot executions style for supposedly a parking dispute. Here, they say the killing of Hassanen was due to a road rage. And tomorrow another innocent Muslim will be killed due to hatred, bigotry and discrimination but in the name of nonsense excuse to mitigate the case and bury it among many other trivial cases by the police and society so that no one makes a big deal of it. This way the rights of Muslims is ignored and their dignity brought down little by little until the common person becomes used to the fact that every other day Muslim blood is spilled and the mention of Islam or anything related brings fear and intimidation to the hearts of many. We observe innocent Muslim youth who bring no harm to society, yet they pay the price of ignorant, barbaric mentality of Islamophobia which instead of intending to end terrorism are actually the ones inflicting terror among Muslim Americans who eat, sleep, drink, and make a living just like any other citizen!
For many Muslim Americans, Hassanen’s death raises unsettling questions about their relationship to a society that has become more vocally open about the presence of those who do not fit a particular narrative of Americanness, especially following the election of Donald Trump.
Yet again, on the last Friday of Ramadan, we find that terrorist attacks even strike the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah, as if there is no sanctity for the holy month in the holy sanctuary! And of course one tragedy is not enough in observing the sanctity of the last farewell Friday of Ramadan, hence the ISIS extremists strikes again this time in Parichinar. Two blasts in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and then in Parachinar claimed lives of scores of innocent civilians. A second blast targeted rescuers and bystanders who were doing their honorable duty of helping the injured and the dying.
As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, we glimpse back in pain while reflecting on the various acts of terror that took place, most notable Hassanen’s murder will doubtless linger in the consciousness of American Muslims. Her and other similar cases must not get drowned by the media with the passage of days and months. Otherwise, Hassanen’s death will have the same impact hate crimes are designed to do – to make a community feel less welcome, less safe.
But for us Muslims, it will make us every more stronger, more determined, more steadfast in our faith. Nothing will make us remove our Islamic garb of modesty; nothing will make us cease to fast, not just food and water during the holy month of Ramadan, but rather fast from participating or engaging in the forbidden acts that are despised by the Almighty Creator. To fast from exhibiting immoral behavior and inappropriate conduct in our daily lives, even against those who do aggression to us. And to fast from staying silent while observing oppression and injustice taking place across the globe against innocent human beings and fellow believers.
United we stand, united we fast, and united we break our fasts with gratitude to the Almighty for letting us be who we are while asking Him to protect us and our children from the ever-growing hatred and conspiracies targeting us at every occasion possible. And united on Eid we remember the innocent victims who paid their lives as a price to the anti-Islamic propaganda promoted by Trump. The month of Ramadan has indeed come as a time of test for many and with the completion of the season of fast we become stronger to face the future challenges that particularly exist in the west.