On April 16, 2007, in what turned out to be one of the deadliest shooting incidents by a lone gunman in the history of the United States, Korean-born Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many others on the Virginia Tech campus, taking his own life at the end of the rampage. When The Washington Post followed up with Cho’s family after the incident, it was discovered that, fearing reprisals, they had gone into hiding, with an FBI agent and a lawyer serving as their only contact to the outside world. At the same time, some Korean-American religious leaders called on their communities to participate in a 32-day fast to repent for each death.
But why should the onus of denouncing Cho’s actions fall on the Korean-American community? In U.S. law there is no place for guilt by association, so the only person answerable for the acts of terror at Virginia Tech was Cho. Not his family. Not his community. Indeed, many Korean-Americans criticized the fasting proposal, arguing that it drew undue and irrelevant attention to the killer’s ethnicity. And they were absolutely right.
On March 10, 2011, Congressman Peter King (R-NY) launched the first of a series of hearings called “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” Aptly described as a new McCarthyism and a modern day witch-hunt, King’s hearings, hiding behind the façade of national security, are aimed at making two misguided points: radicalization and violence are exclusively the domain of Muslims, and the entire Muslim community must bear the cross for the sins of a few truly rotten apples. And on both counts, he is dead wrong.
Is it expected of Christians to publicly defend their moral uprightness every time a child molestation case involving a priest comes forward? Is it expected of Jews to distance themselves from the extremists whenever a Baruch Goldstein, who in a suicide mission in 1994 killed 29 praying Muslims and wounded 125 in Hebron, decides to forcefully reclaim parts of the Promised Land? The answer is an obvious and emphatic “no.” You stand trial for your crimes and your crimes alone, and that is a basic and inviolable tenet of the law.
The fact is, propensity to violence will continue to exist wherever there is an “us” and a “them.” It cuts across identities of any and every sort and doesn’t belong exclusively to the realm of religion. From the secular-Hindu Leninist-Marxist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, who have committed more suicide attacks than Hamas or Hezbollah, to Adolf Hitler, who, driven by nationalism and a sense of racial superiority, launched a war that would result in the deaths of at least 60 million people around the world, to former President Harry Truman and his decision to drop atomic bombs on Japanese cities only to signal America’s post-WWII primacy to the USSR, the causes of violence abound and share no affinity with any one reason or group.
Evil has no identity and is certainly not confined to any conceivable category. Moreover, every religious community has its idiots. There are those who will point to the Qur’an and argue that because the terrorists involved in whatever case said they were following the book, that’s exactly what the book must say, and that all other Muslims must also believe in their twisted logic. Yet, the Ku Klux Klan, the largest and most vicious terrorist group in the history of the U.S., whose members lynched African Americans over an extended period of time, maintained that it was following the Bible. But does the KKK really represent Christianity? And must Christians apologize for its actions?
So just as Anthony Hopkins, the Alabama preacher who killed his wife and stuffed her body in a freezer when she found him molesting a girl, does not represent Christianity or Christians, and just as the Kach and Kahane Chai, the Jewish terrorist groups who want to see Arabs expelled and religious law imposed in Israel, do not represent Judaism or Jews, Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 and wounded 30 at the Fort Hood military base, does not speak for Islam and does not represent Muslims. He stood trial for his crimes and his alone, and no American-Muslim should feel the need to account or apologize for them.
Congressman King’s hearings point to dishonesty of the highest order and conjecture of a dangerous kind. By insinuating that violence starts and stops with Muslims (when according to the FBI, 94 percent of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were committed by non-Muslims between 1980 and 2005) and that even the law-abiding ones must somehow be held responsible, he is destroying the very fabric of this society and tearing to pieces the values that make this country great. These hearings are not only reprehensible and counter-productive but also truly un-American, and must immediately be discontinued.
Fahad Muhammad Sajid is an LSA senior.