Late last month, I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook and came across a news story about Abduljaleel Alarbash. A recent engineering graduate from Wichita State University (WSU), he had returned home during the summer break to get married. It should have been a wonderful time celebrated by the union of two families and should have been a time of new beginnings and hundreds of smiling faces.
Instead, Alarbash died while trying to prevent a suicide bomber from getting into a mosque in Saudi Arabia. An abrupt, brutal ending to what could have been a long prosperous life, the news sent a wave of emotions through the Wichita community, and among people who knew him.
On Friday, June 6, several people from WSU and the Wichita community gathered on campus to pay their respects for Alarbash. What was beautiful about this event was how it demonstrated the unity among an immensely diverse group of people.
Being in the midwest, it is not uncommon for me to come across people with derogatory views about Islam. I understand why it is easy to feel like Islam, by itself, is the root of a lot of violence in the world.
Whether we realize this or not, we humans are very mathematical beings. We are constantly identifying patterns and trying to make sense of an immensely complicated world. And when there are violent people who use a religious banner to justify their radical means, Islam can easily become synonymous with violence for some.
And yes, it puts a lot of people in a very tight spot when asked, “If Islam is a non-violent religion like you claim it is, why is there so much widespread violence under the banner of the religion.” Alarbash’s death is an example of people from the same faith who led two very different paths in life; one who read the Quran and decided to blow up the world, and another who read the same book and decided to put down his life to save several others.
To those who have watched violence in the name of Islam since 9/11 (or before) and have started to lose faith in the religion, I have this to say: Don’t lose hope. It’s easy to blame an entire religion based on the actions of some radical followers.
It might be decades, even centuries before we achieve world peace. But the path to getting there isn’t paved by wiping out or condemning the cultural heritage and religious beliefs of billions of people.
PS: As we grow older, we pay more attention to our surroundings and to the news. This increased awareness and observation of violent conflicts and wars can be misinterpreted as an increase in war and violence on a global scale. This can lead to a sense that the world is getting more violent by the day.
Now I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of work to be done to make the world a better place. But, here’s a well done video that should help you feel a little better about knowing we’re headed in the right direction: