“Execution-style” and “Muslim” together in one sentence have been forever ingrained in the minds of American Muslims. They trigger painful images of three young beautiful souls from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who were lost simply for being Muslim.
A little over a year later, a heinous crime takes place in our own backyard here in the city of Fort Wayne. Three beautiful young black souls were plucked from among our midst “execution style” at an East Lewis Street home on Feb. 24. And the collective Muslim community yet again reads the words “execution style” and “Muslim” together in one sentence (although we later learned that not all three were Muslim).
A shock wave was felt in the national Muslim community. Reactions of anger, fear and frustration have predominated on social media. Questions arose about what seemed to be the Fort Wayne Police Department’s summarily dismissing the act as religiously or politically motivated. Others were offended by use of the word “gang” and attributed its use to the fact that the victims were black and hence this is yet another disregard of the value of black lives by police and the media.
All are legitimate thoughts, feelings and concerns with which I, as a Muslim and a racial minority, am far too familiar. After all, we live in a time when some of the main topics of presidential debates span from an outright ban on Muslims to a mere tolerance of Muslims, a segment of our collective American community that has been part and parcel of this country for centuries.
We live in a time when such vile discourse has gone beyond rhetoric and is mani-fested in the targeting of Muslims across our nation by people who have been conditioned to view us as a threat and our beliefs as an affront to American values. Also magnifying the effect of such news is that the victims were black and that we continue to see examples of systemic racism and a seeming indifference toward the worth of a black American life.
Such reactions, although legitimate, lack an important factor: an understanding of Fort Wayne and the dynamics of our city.
Fort Wayne has been a welcoming city to many people from all corners of the nation and the world, including an estimated 3,000-plus Muslims. From Myanmar to Sudan, Bosnia to Pakistan, from East Coast to West Coast, north and south, the Muslim community comes in all shades of cultural and racial variety. They are factory workers, physicians, laborers, nurses, business owners and academics.
They play a major role in making our city of Fort Wayne the city of faiths. A city where faiths exist together beyond mere tolerance. We pray together for safety and prosperity of all of our city’s residents in the mayor’s annual “Prayer for the City.” From annual Mayor’s Iftars to interfaith Thanksgiving dinners, we all work together to combat the xenophobia that has a chokehold on our national conversations. We, as a city, learn from our past and current mistakes to make sure they are not repeated as we strive to build a better future for ourselves and our children who call this place home.
The murder of the three young beautiful souls was felt by the entire community. As stated by the family’s spokesperson, “this is a city issue.” Yet another homicide took loved ones out of the arms of many. There is a criminal (or criminals) out there who have committed this crime and need to be brought to justice. We grieve together. We mourn together. But more importantly, we work together to bring justice and peace of mind to the friends and families of the victims.
If you want to help the families, then please be forthcoming with any information you may have and share it with the police department. This person (or persons) is loose in our community. If they have killed three, what stops them from killing more?
Original article published in the Journal gazette
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