We all have a polarity within us; magnets, so to speak, that pull on our moral compass. It’s in cases like Hasan’s, where the needle in the compass snaps, that we begin sifting through the deluge of questions of why his compass no longer pointed north and led him toward such destruction.
It’s been just over a week. That’s not near enough time to make definitive statements. This event is laden with complication and questions, ones that will be worked out for months to come. So, Peter, when you ask, “isn’t he like us?” I want to say yes and no. And the no must be investigated thoroughly.
We are all fallible and fractured humans, estranged from God’s love. It’s an estrangement buoyed by our backwardness. Whether it be greed, pride, apathy or in the case of Hasan utter despair—for only a deep tragic despair could fall to such destruction—we find ourselves separated from God’s wholeness. Then there is certainly undeniable distance between Hasan and “us”. This, however, has nothing to do with Hasan being Muslim. Any killing in the name of God is perversion. The difference centers on the proverbial compass needle. Maybe it’s a fallacy, but I’d like to think in all of our imperfection, we (the “us”) can and do value the good over evil and that we can distinguish between the two when we engage in thoughtful reflection. In doing so we ask ourselves, “how do we keep the needle pointing north?” For many of us it’s a reflection through religious imagination, which helps us make sense of our fallible characters and endows us with a power of transcendence.
But when that religious imagination becomes the vehicle for violent action, it is perversion plain and simple. It’s becoming more clear Hasan was a more troubled man than anyone ever recognized—a trouble that led to a manifestation of religious perversion. It’s why American Muslims have been so vocal in the last week to say: “this is not who we are, it is in fact the exact opposite.”
So we can see Hasan as the wholly, evil “other,” ask for our pound of flesh, and move on in dismayed anger. Or, maybe we can thoroughly investigate the whys and the hows. That is, how did such undeniable distance develop between Hasan and us? How did this man become encumbered by such deep trauma? And how did no one recognize his troubled nature and fail to speak out, or even more, help him work through such despair?
If we’re about healing, we’ll not gloss over the difficult questions that indict us all. We’ll approach them stumbling forward, but we’ll do it together—rechecking the compass with each step. We have to.
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