I had the same sinking feeling in my gut today that I experienced on 9/11/2001, when I saw two planes demolish the twin towers.
My cereal bowl hit the floor.
This past Sunday morning, I was driving when my son called with the grim news of the mass shooting in Orlando. I had to pull the car over and open the door.
My breakfast stained the black asphalt.
While I respect all roads to God, mine being Christianity, the faith of my childhood was Islam.
However, the Islam I grew up in does not condone flying planes into buildings, nor killing fifty people at a nightclub. The world needs to acknowledge the fact that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.
I know Islam, I was Muslim . . . In a way, I still am.
It wasn't a coat I took off.
My Islam is loving, peaceful, generous, cares for the hungry and sick and destitute. It loves lovers, honors mothers and fathers, adores sons and daughters, prays for neighbors, implores the best, hopes for the best, and seeks the best.
My Islam is kind, humble, patient, humane, and charitable. It is not apathetic, but full of empathy. It is not unjust, but full of justice. It is not hateful or vicious. It does not discriminate. It cherishes and embraces. My Islam loves all, esteems all, and treasures all.
What happened in Orlando has little to do with Islam, and much to do with sick political agendas.
AN OPEN LETTER TO ARAB LEADERS
I am shrieking with a voice tired of carnage: Where are you?
What will it take?
What will it take for the Arab world to unite against evil forces, striping us of peace and love and joy and songs and all things beautiful?
What will it take for Arab leaders to realize ISIS will drive Islam to collapse into itself? That if not stopped, it will contribute to the demise of all things harmonious and positive about the religion of my youth, when I prayed with my forehead on the floor in total surrender, and felt God closer than my skin. If ISIS is not illuminated, it will continue attaching terms like "radical" and "terrorist" to the faith of 1.7 billion peaceful people.
Arabs must take the lead. We have to unite and defeat this sick thorn. ISIS has shed a dark light onto the faith when I loved abstaining from food and water from Sunrise to Sunset in Ramadan, and thought of nothing but those who have not.
What will it take?
HUMANITY WILL HEAL
Islam needs a leader.
Where is our Mahatma Gandhi? Where is our Malala Yousafzai? Where is our Martin Luther King? Where is our Nelson Mandela?
Gandhi was imprisoned for aspiring, "when I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall."
Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for striving, "the terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born."
King was killed for dreaming, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Nelson Mandela was jailed for endeavoring, "our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future."
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Things may seem dire.
The human race has survived, and will continue to survive and live and flourish and reach the summit of virtues breathtaking.
We will not be rendered defenseless.
We will not succumb to defeat.
We will not surrender to horror.
We will not fall victims to terrorism.
We are loving and hate-free, strong and idle-free, inclusive and label-free, resilient and fear free.
We live in a country by the people, for the people. We don't have to be silent.
We should implore our senators and congressmen to ban weapons, fight terror, heal prejudice, educate ignorance, and most of all pray love.
Love is the only force that will defeat evil.
The spot of cereal from that September day will remain on my rug, and the spot of mourn for the Orlando victims will remain in my heart.
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