The feelings among American Muslims that anti-Muslim hatred is on the rise has exasperated many after the recent homicides of two Bangladeshis in Queens, NY and one Arab American in Tulsa, OK. In the case of Queens, the motive of these murders is relatively unclear though there are reports of tensions between Latinos and the growing Bangladeshi American Muslims in the Ozone Park neighborhood. The deceased Arab American who was a Christian reportedly faced harassment and threats of violence from his murderer that was a neighbor including his family being called "dirty Arabs","filthy Lebanese" and "Mooslems." Given these highly disturbing incidents conjoined with the currently hyperbolic political rhetoric targeting Muslims and Islam, I have a few items of advice for the community.
Take Precautions & Trust in Allah
A well-known narration in Sahih ibn Hibban deemed to be sound on the authority of 'Amr bin Umayyah, and a similar one with slight variance in wording in Sunan at-Tirmidhi deemed to be good on the authority of Anas bin Malik, give us guidance on the need to be diligent while placing the results of outcomes with Allah (Mighty & Sublime). A man with a she-camel came to the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) and inquired, "Should I tie her up, or trust [in Allah]?" He replied, "Tie her up, and trust [in Allah]."
America is the most violent nation in the so-called Developed World with close to 40 murders per day on average. Non-fatal shootings and assaults are at even greater numbers per day all throughout the country. We should not live in perpetual fear; however, we need to be even more aware of our surroundings especially with the heightened anti-Muslim discourse during this election year. In times and areas of hostility, it is best to travel in pairs or small groups when possible and to avoid unneeded traveling at night. As narrated by al-Bukhari, the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) stated, "If people knew what I know about the dangers of being alone, no rider would travel alone at night."
In the case of the two brothers who were killed in Queens, they were walking together in the middle of the day. Even if they would have had concealed weapons permits and firearms, they would not have had time to draw them when the killer shot them in the back of their heads. In the case of Tulsa, the gentleman had contacted law enforcement authorities about the neighbor on numerous occasions and even had a restraining order against him.
Taking precautions and going through proper law enforcement channels are not foolproof. At the end of the day, we take necessary precautions and pray to Allah (Mighty & Sublime) for protection while understanding that He is ultimately in control. There is no good that comes to us except with His permission. Likewise even though He is not pleased with evil, there is no mischief or harm which befalls us except that He knows of it and allows it to take place. This in no way absolves persons from the crimes they commit based upon the free-will which they were bestowed.
Need for Increased Community Policing
Having safe communities is not merely the responsibility of law enforcement but those who reside in communities. Going further than the neighborhood watch model, relationships must be cultivated within communities to de-escalate conflicts before the need for even calling police due to escalated events or violence. This is the community policing model.
Community policing actually requires knowing the people which we reside around, the movers and shakers, the elders of different ethnic communities who have influence, and even gang leaders in some cases. There is no possibility to de-escalate tensions if we stay in our own ethnic or religious silos and are seen as strangers with only familiar faces. The safety of the communities which we reside in and our very survival necessitates our increased involvement in community policing models.
Broader issues such as whether or not our country needs stricter gun laws to how we can make police and the criminal justice system more accountable to keep us safe when we are being directly threatened are part of larger policy discussions. We, however, can play our part as individuals right now in striving to make our communities and families more safe during this tumultuous time. We need to do our due diligence in taking precautions, pray to Allah (Mighty & Sublime) for safety and get out to our communities more to be known to develop relationships that can spread peace. These steps may not stop hardcore bigots who have hatred in their hearts, but they may provide opportunities to stop some acts of violence from taking place.
By Dawud Walid , 16 Aug 2016