I saw the images of the aftermath of Colorado shooting in a place called WeiHai, Shandong Province in China. Late in the afternoon on Friday I had just gotten back to the hotel and was passing the lobby and someone called me over to watch TV with pictures and the breathless narrative by a blonde CNN Talking Head. The first thing that entered my mind is not sympathy with the victims or the sorrow for the whole situation. No, the first thing that entered my mind is that I hope this is not yet another act of senseless killings by some Jihadi!
I live in Colorado not far from the movie theatre. I have been to the movie theatre number of times and the senseless shooting was beginning to gnaw on me. But, who done it? As time went on CTV (China TV) launched into a long and boring discussion about the US gun culture. There I was trying to figure out if the shooter was a Jihadi or not? No answer was forthcoming from anywhere. It was late in Colorado so I decided not to bother family and friends. As time went on the news trickled out that a madman indeed has snuffed out 12 mostly young lives and injured some 58 people. The picture that is emerging is actually a no picture. Apparently a well-adjusted brilliant young man went on a murderous rampage. The reasons are murky at best. These sorts of things happen in America every now and then mainly because people who lose touch with reality are able to get lethal weapons and go on murderous binges. The Virginia Tech shooting, shooting of Congresswoman Gabi Gifford and many large and small incidents testify to this uniquely American tragedy.
I am against severe gun control laws in the US because the Second Amendment is clear on the rights of people to bear arms. What I agonise about is the inability of the system to stop people for acquiring veritable arsenals without so much raising an eyebrow. So, I guess we have to pay the price of the freedom with lives lost to senseless violence. This gets me back to the Jihadi murderous rampages. I kept wondering why I was so concerned about the Jihadi role in the Colorado killings.
With a start I realized I was worried about the impact on me in broad terms. As a Muslim American my life has definitely changed after 9/11. There has been fear and loathing at all levels against any Muslim sounding name, or someone that may look like a potential Muslim. FBI has launched and maintains a vigorous informant network in the mosques and religious schools. The snitches are paid to set up sting operations to snare the hapless aspirants of Jihadi mayhem and murder. Most recently, Rezwan Ferdaus, a would-be terrorist of Bangladeshi descent, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to destroy two little Federal buildings, um, the Pentagon and the US Capitol. He was caught by a sting operation. Now, it is virtually certain that he will face 17 years in Federal Penitentiary. As I was mulling these things over I realized I was in fear and loathing of the impact of a Jihadi killing spree on the immigrant communities, especially, the Muslim communities.
Ten years on from the days of 9/11 we are slowly getting back to whereby our names (Muslim names) do not automatically trigger additional scrutiny and verification. The Officialdom in the US has put in place all sorts of non-discriminatory policies and enforcement mechanism. As it has been the case for a fairly long time. It is a crime to discriminate against any person based on race, nationality, colour, gender and sexual orientation. Occasionally these are enforced with lots of fanfare. But, the fear and loathing of the general public a.k.a. Joe Six Pack is harder to abolish with a decree or a law. Anytime I went to a bar or a Football game people give me that indefinable suspicious look. For couple of years after 9/11, every time I tried to fly somewhere the airlines folks had to get clearance from the unseen folks in dark glasses. This was despite the fact that I have been a frequent flyer for over two decades.
Now, at least I do not merit a second look at the airport. Actually I breeze through the airports as a Trusted Flyer and go through immigration without ever talking to a human being. I love those little ATM like machines that scans your Iris and says things like welcome home! I loathe the thought of getting back to the days when I would merit a second look because of my name or my religion. Even though I know it maybe justifiable. One has to only remember that all of the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims and it is probably normal for the population at large to be suspicious of people with similar names and faith. We in Bangladesh still treat the Biharis with disdain and contempt after 40 plus years. We simply deny these people any of the rights that they deserve because of perceived associative sins of their ancestors. This simply would not happen in a place like the United States.
America in general is a tolerant place and people are generally a forgiving lot. There are crazy people like the Colorado mass murderer who goes off every now and then. These defective people are triggered by some inner demon that is hard to predict and harder to control. In case of Mr. Holmes the truth may never be known. Here is apparently a brilliant guy pursuing a Ph. D. in one of the most difficult disciplines just has a meltdown of some sort that allowed him take so many lives in minutes. I have come to accept these acts as almost like natural disasters. These defective people go off and create mayhem. Unless we as Americans change our way of living and our worldview we just have to live with these periodic time bombs going off. However, it is so very different when it comes to Jihadi violence. The Jihadi violence is caused by defective philosophy and worldview and not a diseased mind. If the Jihadi violence is permitted to go on unanswered one ends up with limitless violence a la the tribal areas of Pakistan, Somalia and other hot spots. On top of that Jihadi violence disrupts the community that the practitioners of Jihadi violence seem to want to serve. If unchecked you get failed states like Pakistan and Somalia. Talk about a mind bender! Destroy the very communities that you wish to serve.
As I get ready to go back home to Colorado, my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I, however, cannot shake the loathing of some religio-philosophy based violence that is lurking just around the corner. Yes, I am carrying fear and loathing in head, maybe for the rest of my life.
Kayes Ahmed lives in Boulder, Colorado, USA with his three dogs. He runs a small yet global apparel and design business based in Boulder.