US gun massacres: An open letter to the American people

Sandy-Hook

US politicians all agree that the mass murder of American children is wrong yet the same consensus is not accorded to the hundreds of innocent Muslims killed by US foreign policy

20 small children were murdered last month in one of the most tragic US school massacres of recent years. We all send sincere condolences to the families for this needless, dreadful loss of life. It is a fundamental truth of our existence that we cannot change the past and that death irreversibly comes to us all. In Islam, children are sinless. God created us all and to Him we will all return.

Here is a picture of paradise promised to the pious: rivers of water forever pure, rivers of milk forever fresh, rivers of wine, a delight for those who drink, rivers of honey clarified and pure, [all] flow in it; there they will find fruit of every kind; and they will find forgiveness from their Lord. (Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an 47:14-15)

This massacre is the latest in a series of mass murders in schools, allegedly by disturbed young men who feel ostracised from their society and sometimes mentally unstable. The victims are randomly chosen, and form a part of the perpetrators final self destruction. The random nature of these killings makes it difficult to take precautions. Gun related homicides and suicides in US schools are extremely numerous and we only remember the worst of them. Since Columbine in 1999 we have seen the Virginia Tech massacre, the Red Lake massacre, the Amish school shooting, the Northern Illinois university shooting, Charndon High school earlier this year and now the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre. School should be a place of safety for children but in the current climate, all parents will have a little extra unease when the school bell rings and they hand over responsibility for their children to the teachers.

President Obama gave a speech on the day of the massacre pledging to use whatever power is held within his office to prevent such a massacre occurring again. Since then he has unveiled a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden with the job of “exploring the options” with regards new gun laws. There has been mixed reaction to this.

American politicians and lawmakers all agree that the mass murder of American children is wrong. The same consensus or outcry is however not accorded to the hundreds of innocent Muslim children who have been killed by US drone strikes and other US military activity across the world.

For gun crime at home the debate ranges from having tighter controls on gun ownership to having more gun ownership. Fox news reported that Texas officials have proposed to stop school shootings by letting “teachers fire back.” Like a gun slinger in the Wild West these gun toting teachers will now be expected to win gun battles against children while continuing to teach them to read and write. The debate has focussed mainly on the availability of guns without carefully scrutinising the society that leads to a young man planning and carrying out this horrible crime.

While the journalists, the politicians and other commentators variously blame society, gun laws, his family and keep looking for others to blame, realistic proposals to prevent future massacres are scarce. Nobody really seems to know what to do. Limiting the purchase of assault rifles will in all likelihood not even reduce the number of casualties at the next massacre, because assailants have tended to carry more than one weapon.

Politicians are failing your country. Sometimes their procrastination does not affect ordinary people but when action is required their egoistic arguments role on for months if not years. There does not seem to be any impetus to solve problems and move forwards. Washington is not alone but is joined by the European Union in Brussels who display the same failings.

Believing in freedom and democracy does not provide you with solutions to such problems and that is a big part of the reason that politicians find it impossible to agree. There is no superior argument between the rival opinions. Why should everyone have their freedom restricted when only a tiny minority abuse that freedom? Conversely are occasional massacres of elementary school children a price worth paying for the freedom to own guns? The failure in the reasoning is to consider freedom to be a relevant reference-point.

Freedom is impossible. We all live in societies with rules and laws that limit the freedom of the individual but in exchange for those restrictions we get the benefits that go with living in a society including education and security. So freedom is inevitably restricted in every country and a balance must be struck. The real question to be asked is where the lines should be drawn and upon what basis those restrictions should be made. Belief in freedom does not answer the real question in a helpful or consistent way which is why many other philosophies influence the debate, gay marriage and abortion law being relevant examples.

There is a recent trend in the U.S. and in Western democracies such as the U.K. to produce and enact legislation in response to an event. For example, the terrorist attacks of the early 21st century sparked a flurry of legislation permitting state security activities that would have previously been opposed on the basis of personal freedom. Legislating in such a way has resulted in an erosion of “civil liberties” in excess of what was justified by the events in question and there are many injustices that have resulted from this such as the torture of prisoners of war by the U.S. military. Legislating in response to an event is unlikely to lead to well thought out or appropriate laws.

Freedom confuses the debate. The democratic political system paralyses your leaders. The U.S. was once the most powerful nation militarily, economically and culturally in the world, yet with economic stagnation and budget deficits brought on by failed military expeditions in the Middle East this is no longer the case and despite the president’s commitment to use all the power of his office to prevent a similar massacre from happening again, we all know that it probably will.

The above will be countered with the assertion that this is the price that we pay to be protected from political oppression and dictatorship. Of course democracy is not perfect, the argument continues, but it’s the “least worst” system that’s ever been tried. Besides, for all its failings, this system has lead the Western World to an impressive level of prosperity, leading the world in science, technology, wealth and military power.

However, many Muslims believe that there is a better way. We believe that it is possible to have accountability, checks and balances on political power without paralysing government. We believe in the premise that only Allah (God) has the right to permit or restrict the actions of mankind and so any legislative opinion regarding any matter of ruling must be based upon an appropriate understanding of the guidance sent by Allah (swt), the Qur’an and the example of His Prophet, Muhammed (saw).  So man’s laws are separated from the whims of imperfect men in origin which helps to introduce some consistency. We also believe that the leader of the nation has the right to adopt laws, providing he does not violate the above premise. So government can act when required.

We do not think that in this way utopia is achieved. However, it provides for effective and efficient governance without giving up the right of the people to challenge the law when it is believed to be oppressive or unjust. This is supported by a strong non-legislative societal system based on the family that aims to support the raising of children in a strong cultural environment. What protects the people from political oppression is the fact that the government is restricted by what is found in the Qur’an and Sunnah and cannot simply legislate according to his own ideas, the opinion of the majority or the opinion of his main business partners or financial backers. A strong independent judiciary is vital to protect the validity of this system.

Just as you feel much urgency to prevent such a massacre from occurring in your schools again, likewise we feel great urgency to protect our children from continued US military strikes. Your government claims to protect your freedom through its military operations abroad that claim the lives of many civilians in other parts of the world like Yemen and Pakistan. Your drones do not necessarily aim for specific people but carry out “signature strikes” which means people are killed for the way they behave, not because of any definite evidence they are your enemies. Civilians including hundreds of women and children have been killed in these strikes. American citizens, including a Muslim American teenager have been killed without any due process. Your tearful president personally and proudly heads this drone campaign that murders children just as innocent as your own abroad, to protect your freedom to carry guns that kill children at home. That is why we work politically to implement a government that will protect our citizens from your government’s relentless aggression and bizarre illogical moral inaptitude.

Freedom doesn’t help real people with real problems, its just a catchphrase that people use to try to defend their own opinion. It doesn’t help you but your president uses it as a justification to launch wars and kill randomly with significant civilian casualties. How much of the death and destruction in this world is done with American manufactured weapons? How many wars are for the principles of freedom and democracy? We know that ordinary Americans see their country as a force for good in the world. It is not. Anti-Americanism is a reaction to the devastation that US economic and military policy has reaped across the world. Islam is a threat to oppression, wherever it may be, from US foreign policy. Islam is not a threat to the American people but is a solution to achieve some peace, stability and justice during yet another violent and oppressive American decade.

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