The Sacredness of Human Life in an Age of Terror

By Dustin Craun

Last month as Ramadan came to an end, we reflected on a month that saw beauty and spiritual light rain upon the earth, and at the same time we reflect on the gross injustices committed in the United States and throughout the world. As we reflect on this month where 1.6 billion people throughout the world spend the days fasting, the nights praying, and then repeat this pattern for thirty straight days. The solitude of prayer at night is usually the most memorable part of the month and in those moments the prayers that roll off the tongue over and over again focus on spiritual transformation, but also on political and social justice minded transformation. Prayers for those suffering without food or water throughout the world, those suffering at the hand of unjust governments, those living in the dense fog of war, and ultimately we pray for all human life to be respected as sacred.

As our Ramadan fast began we thought of those prisoners in the state of California and at Guantanamo Bay who had undertaken months long hunger strikes to bring notice to the inhumane ways they are being treated. Early in the month like millions throughout the United States we saw the new film Fruitvalle Station about the murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California by a White transit authority police officer, and we sobbed like all of those surrounding us in the packed theatre for this young man whose life was taken in cold blood at such a young age, like so many other young black and brown men in this country. And it was just a few days after that on the fourth day of Ramadan that we heard the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial where a man walked free who murdered this young child of God, Trayvon Martin.

While Trayvon Martin was racialized and demonized within the lines of centuries old stereotypes about black men as George Zimmerman walked free, a re-birthing civil rights movement responded nobly throughout the country led by the Dream Defenders take over of the Florida state capitol which lasted 31 days. In this same month we also saw the plea of a grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, who’s sixteen year old grandson Abdul Rahman Al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was murdered by a US drone strike in Yemen, just as hundreds of other children his age and younger have been indescrimenantly murdered by US drones in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Nasser al-Awlaki is suing key US government officials to find answers to why his grandson was murdered by his own government.

With the death of so many children heavy on our hearts, Martin Luther King’s Eulogy for Martyred Children came to mind where he eulogized the four little girls killed in the White supremacist church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, “This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came. These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”  Unfortunately today, we are all entirely to used to seeing the children being murdered, over and over again.

In the Qur’an God states that, “We have honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea; We have provided good sustenance for them and favored them specially above many of those We have created” (17:70). This verse says that the children of Adam are honored, not just Muslims, not just Arabs, not just White Americans, not just US Citizens, not just adults, but all of humanity has been honored by God. Sadly we do not live in a reality where humans are honored as equals, White life is honored and protected in this country in a way that people of color, especially the lives of black men are not honored. We live in a world where American lives are honored in ways that people of different nationalities are not honored. Malcolm X as always spoke plainly about this when he stated to a crowd in Ghana before their independence, “So if someone else from America comes to you to speak, they’re probably speaking as Americans, and they speak as people who see America through the eyes of an American. And usually those types of persons refer to America, or that which exists in America, as the American Dream. But for the twenty million of us in America who are of African descent, it is not an American dream; it’s an American nightmare.” This American nightmare is alive and well – it kills children in Florida, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, on the Pine Ridge reservation and all over the world.

The reality we have to face up to is that WE are the only way the nightmare ends, we must pray, but we also must organize to change these conditions to end this American nightmare and say that all life matters and we will not stand for indiscriminate killing anywhere in the world. To do this we must build deep and broad coalitions, and Muslims must get involved in every aspect of the struggle as many already are. From Florida to Yemen to Arizona, we must say, enough. We will not stand for a world where our lives are meaningless in the machines of war from hand guns to drones to border fences, our lives are sacred, all life is sacred. And if we truly have faith and believe that all life is sacred then, we must end all these wars that are terrorizing people throughout the world.

As the month of Ramadan ended, we celebrated with thanks to God for such a blessed month with our Eid holiday. As we gathered for Eid celebrations at our homes, parks and conference centers throughout the United States in peace, our Yemini sisters and brothers began posting photos of Drones that their family members had seen flying over their homes in the capital city, Sana’a. Soon to follow were eight days of Eid drone bombings which daily reaffirm for Yemeni’s that the United States does not see their life as sacred, in fact they bomb children, and women, and elderly and the US media cuts and pastes American military press releases that call everyone militants as Yemini journalists dig through the ashes for the truth of innocent lives lost as Jermey Schahill showed the world with his recent book and film Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Our prayers continue, as we daily organize, speak, and work for a world where all life is sacred. As my dear friend, the brilliant educator Mark Gonzales reminds us so clearly, “In times of terror, wage beauty.”

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One thought on “The Sacredness of Human Life in an Age of Terror

  1. “…for the twenty million of us in America who are of African descent, it is not an American dream; it’s an American nightmare.”
    My reply: I’ve known at least a few folks of African descent whose lives are not marred by nightmare. America is not Utopia. Yes there is injustice here but there is ample evidence that our judicial process works – not all the time – most of the time. All of us are flawed human beings with the capacity to learn from history. May it be so. As your piece suggests we thank God but cannot wait for Him to act: We must act; we must remember; we must exercise due diligence. The nightmare ends within each one of us. May it be so. Just for today. While we have breath.

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