Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, described Ramadan's first ten days as the Days of Mercy, and Muslim are encouraged to seek it ardently through prayers and supplications as we fast and remember God. It is something that is profoundly important this year in the wake of Anders Breivik's murderous rampage that killed over 70 people on July 23, 2011, just days before the start of Ramadan.
The bloodshed is a stark reminder that we need mercy more than ever as hate, anger, and intolerance rise around the world.
Someone calling himself "Paul" sent me the following message a few days after the Norway killings:
"The only problem with the Norway attacks is that he did not target the cockroach swine muslim. I hope we can rectify that with the next attack in the US someday. I myself will give out candy on the street corners the day someone finally decides that the pig muslims have to go in the US. You understand that feeling don't you, you child f...rs."
This is not the only hate email I have received in the last ten years. I receive them on a regular basis, including direct death threats, as well as two incidents of gunshots aimed at my office.
But it is not just me. I would say hate is on the rise as a whole.
The attacker of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may perhaps be a real nutcase. However, this is not the case for the Norway terrorist who managed to kill 70 or so children.
Our society is moving toward greater polarization, and more needs to be done to mediate anger and hate in our country.
President Obama is receiving 400 percent more death threats than President Bush did during his term in office, according to the Secret Service. The first black president of our country has been a source of hot and loud conversations about his place of birth and faith. These conspiracy theories have found grounding in the minds of a good percentage of the American population.
Armed militias have doubled in number recently; their chatter is more violent, and they are training against their perceived enemy--who happen to be Muslims. According to Time magazine: "The militia trains for ambushes, sniper missions, close-quarters battle and other infantry staples."
A Maine-based white supremacist was even moving forward successfully in building a dirty bomb, until his wife shot him dead in a domestic dispute. The sheriff found all sorts of related items in his home, including radioactive uranium, unlike Jose Padilla, the more well-publicized dirty bomber, who had no such material in his possession.
A total of 14,033,824 guns were purchased in America in 2009, according to the FBI's latest available figures. It was a 10-percent increase over the previous year. About 2.5 million Americans became first-time gun owners that year. The question we have to ask ourselves is why are so many people buying guns?
Hate toward the perceived other has risen substantially. While a record number of 392,862 undocumented workers were deported in 2010, the remaining ten million are forced to live in extremely inhumane conditions, as the Economist recently reported. Unwelcoming attitudes toward Latinos have moved from Minutemen on our streets to armed vigilantes on the border, to Arizona laws, which, today, about 20 other states are considering adopting. Arizona has gained one extra Congressional seat thanks to the growth in its Latinos. Ironically, this is one state Latinos are now fleeing in droves
Verbal and physical attacks on Muslim Americans are increasing at an alarming rate. While more Muslims are choosing not to report crimes against them, hate toward Muslims is becoming mainstream. City after city, Muslims have to wage a battle to get their mosques built. A mixture of misguided public policy and irresponsible media is creating a lethal environment in which it is acceptable to say anything and do anything aimed at a Muslim. As 49 bills in 22 states are considering anti-Muslim laws similar to Oklahoma's anti-Sharia constitutional amendment, many GOP presidential candidates would like to have a federal law banning Sharia.
Norway terrorist Anders Breivik wanted his society to wake up to the dangers Muslims, immigrants, and Sharia pose to European society. He was connected with racist groups in different parts of the world and hate bloggers in the United States.
America needs to tone down its rhetoric against undocumented workers, its Muslims, and its president. The pulpit's leadership has its work cut out for it. Churches, synagogues, and mosques need to do more to mediate anger and fear as the economy continues to struggle and fear of diversity continues to rise.
While clergy is using the pulpit to mediate anger, it may be a good idea for talk show hosts to have a town hall meeting of their own. This would be to figure out how they can play a role in the mental health of our nation by refraining from rhetoric that is damaging human relations in our country.
I also believe that Congress needs to join in our crusade against violent speech. The Senate and the House can start their fresh session by holding hearings about the rise of hate and anger in our society. Allow psychologists, sociologists, law enforcement officers, faith leaders, and other sane voices to offer their testimony daily as hearings proceed. It is also important to hear the voices of armed militias.
I hope Congressman Peter King, as the new chair of Homeland Security, can begin this process of healing in our society.
Like the Oklahoma City bomber, the Norway bomber points to the rise of extreme, anti-government, right-wing terrorists. It is important that we all take that seriously.
I agree with Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who, in the wake of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, said it best: "The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous."
"Anders Breivik" by thierry ehrmann - http://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/7262012920/in/photostream/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anders_Breivik.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Anders_Breivik.jpg