The actions of a few…..

I have been going back and forth on making a personal assessment about who is ultimately responsible for the abuse at Abu Gharib. Do I blame the soldiers, the military, the civilian masters of the Pentagon, the President or the American People?

President Bush – below makes the arguement (in Al Arabiya that this is not a reflection of America:

Q Mr. President, thank you for giving us this chance here in Al Arabiya. Regarding the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners, six U.S. soldiers are being reprimanded. Do you think that’s enough?

THE PRESIDENT: First, I want to tell the people of the Middle East that the practices that took place in that prison are abhorrent and they don’t represent America. They represent the actions of a few people. Secondly, it’s important for people to understand that in a democracy that there will be a full investigation. In other words, we want to know the truth.

In our country, when there’s an allegation of abuse — more than an allegation in this case, actual abuse, we saw the pictures — there will be a full investigation and justice will be delivered. We have a presumption of innocent until you’re guilty in our system, but the system will be transparent, it will be open and people will see the results. This is a serious matter. It’s a matter that reflects badly on my country. Our citizens in America are appalled by what they saw, just like people in the Middle East are appalled. We share the same deep concerns. And we will find the truth, we will fully investigate. The world will see the investigation and justice will be served.

This sentiment has especially been echoed by the chatter boxes at Fox News and assorted right-wing radio stations. I whole heartedly agree with Bush. My experience as a guest in America – does not even come remotely close to what those soldiers did. However, I do recall that when Muslims in America said – that the actions of the Al-Qaida fanatics on 9/11 – did not represent Islam – we were pretty much told that this was not true. Bush did go out of his way to say that Islam is a religon of peace – but at the same time, his Justice department arressted a thousands of Muslims on suspicion of terrorism. I my self had to suffer the humiliation of going to the JFK Building in Boston at 5.00 am in February and get finger printed, photographed and asked a whole lot of question – in other words get special registration. What did I do to deserve such “special” treatment – apparently being born in Pakistan or some other majority Muslim country – made you suspect and a threat to America.

So while I agree that the actions of the few do not represent the whole – I just wish the Bush administration would have the same view point in all aspects of its governance

One thought on “The actions of a few…..

  1. I have been indulging in the same finger-pointing: at the president, at Rumsfeld, at any number of persons and entities. And it’s true, they are at fault. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am at fault as well, as is every individual that is part of a culture. Individuals comprise the culture, whether that culture gives rise to an Abu Graib or a beheading. In that sense, we are all guilty and somehow complicit in all of those actions (on whichever side).
    I’m having trouble handling the day-to-day stuff also. The news just gets worse and worse. Maybe an interfaith, Internet prayer chain of some sort would help?
    Now for some good news.
    Just a month or so after 9/11, I volunteered to sit in a call center during “The Concert for New York.” We had a brief training session first and all the volunteers gathered together.
    Amazingly (now this was courage), there were two Muslim women volunteering also: one in hijab, one not (but I’m pretty sure they were mother and daughter.) It was the younger woman wearing hijab (actually just the head scarf, but I forgot what that’s called).
    At first I admit that I had an almost involuntary reaction at seeing that symbol while the WTC was still smoldering. I couldn’t help it. Then I thought about why this young woman was where she was in that call center, and I thought: “Dear LORD that took courage. She wants to help… perhaps also she wants to be a witness to her faith to “incarnate” the message that not “every Muslim is a terrorist,” etc, etc. In any case, people were avoiding her. When we walked to our stations I found myself walking next to her. I had a US-flag motif scarf around my neck (in those days, everyone was wearing flag motifs, red/white/blue outfits, etc). She turned and smiled at me, and said, “hey… I like your scarf.”
    I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and answered her, “I like yours, too.” We looked at each other a moment, and we both smiled. Immediately I felt released. **I** felt released. I imagine she did too. Then we went to our stations and started taking phone calls.
    I think she did more for the cause of peace by wearing her scarf than I did by wearing mine. It had to have been difficult.
    Then there was another story that came out of the same place (it was a bank, very large, lots of branches all over). One of our workers had been in the WTC when it was hit. She is married and has 3 small children. She was in NYC on a short-term training session, giving instruction to the workers in the WTC branch of our bank. She told her story, about how a young man she hardly knew was the one who saved her. He kept pushing her out, and at one point carried her (and she wasn’t a small person). Down, down, down those steps. She only knew his first name, which was an Anglicized name. After they made it out, and she got back home, she found out who he was. He was an American Muslim.
    That is *not* an urban legend. It happened at the WTC branch of the former First Union, and was published on the corporate intranet not long after it happened. I have a hard copy of the story somewhere in storage. But it really did happen. It is not a legend. Neither is the first story: that happened to me firsthand. I was the woman in the US flag scarf.
    I think right now it is important to tell these stories, too. There is too much negative energy in the world right now. We need to remember that in all religions and cultures there are good people…even the “bad” people are good people in bad circumstances. Perhaps if I were put to that kind of test, I would react similiarly. I don’t know. So we pray “subject us not to the trial” (“lead us not into temptation”). But the trials and tests do come, and sometimes we don’t respond well to them.
    But there are good people in the world… I am posting these two stories so that I can remember, and others can hear, too.
    Perhaps an internet, interfaith prayer chain would “release” us all from at least some of the sadness and tragedy we hear so much of right now.
    And I would be honored to pray with you, Islamicate.

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