I am a Muslim.
I don't generally wear that fact on my sleeve, and I try not to write too much on the subject.
Not anymore, and not in any big way.
It's important to me, it informs every aspect of my life and identity--but there are better folks than I who may pull apart the great nexus of poverty, ideology, instability, and war that have come to define the Western understanding of our faith.
I'm just a random guy on the internet--basically that guy you kind of know that occasionally posts on your timeline.
But when I was a younger man, a younger Muslim, and a younger journalist (if you can call what I'm doing journalism, I suspect you can't--but that is perhaps another blog for another day); I tried on occasion to "defend" my religion.
Or deen, as the word is rendered in the Arabic language. A word that is a more encompassing idea than mere religion; a word that touches on worldview, lifestyle, and the psychology of the Muslim.
My desire to champion Islam--the sort of Islam that reached into my darkest days and restored my sense of self--has cost me a few premature grey hairs and more than one sleepless night. It even caused me to join the U.S. Army, at 18, in the hopes of showing a kind of mindful patriotism--that effort didn't pan out, nor have all the others.
I'm not that bright, nor that convincing, and I am no Atlas that the world might rest on my shoulders.
At some point in the last decade, I gave up my crusade. Or jihad. Whichever word draws the eye most sharply to the emotions I am struggling to convey.
I contented myself with the notion that if I could prove to my friends and colleagues that I might be a fair and decent man, their opinion of our world--our ummah--might in some way improve. Or at least grow more nuanced.
I still believe that, and that is my struggle now.
I offer you the perspective of the layman, not of the Imam or alim, just a Muslim guy in New Orleans--riding the streetcar to the grocery store or arguing with the metermaid.
When a terrorist attack happens now--whether it is in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, or Ankara--I no longer take to social media to charge head first into the onslaught of virtual Ted Cruzs.
I've gotten in the habit of taking a walk instead, and reading the Qur'an.
This is my meager contribution to the war effort; nothing to be compared to the sacrifices of those Muslims staring across a firing line at ISIS's henchmen in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere.
But this is a war not just of bullets and bombs, but one most chiefly of thought--and every inch of intellectual ground devoured by the enemy is one less inch my brothers, sisters, and I have to stand on.
This is what I read this morning; it gave me solace in a way I can't quite explain. I hope it informs you, a little bit, of who we are and how we are feeling.
From the second chapter of the Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqarah;
"There is a type of man whose speech about this world's life may dazzle you, and he calls on Allah to witness about what is in his heart; yet he is the most perverse of enemies. When he turns his back, his aim is to spread discord through the Earth, to destroy the people's wealth and to kill their children--but Allah loves not his evil." 2:204-205.
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Allah loves not your evil.
And God help me, neither do I.