Originally written for the Herald Journal, cross posted here with permission from Tyler Duffey!
While living abroad in Morocco, hearing tragic breaking news from the US elicits a new kind of emotional response for me. Upon hearing about the Newtown event, Hurricane Sandy, the Benghazi attacks and most recently, the Boston tragedy it has put me in a place of longing. I want to be back home to support family and friends or if I can, those who tragedy has struck. However, I also realize that for these events I am an ambassador. During these difficult news times, many Moroccans have expressed their sympathies to me, sometimes friends, sometimes strangers whom I meet on the street. Their concern and knowledge of these tragedies is touching, their apologies for the occurrences, sincere and heartfelt.
The attack in Boston was different, it was carried out with improvised explosive devices, rather than a firearm, made from pressure cookers like my grandmother uses to can corn every summer. During the tense 24 hours before the perpetrators were found, I along with my wife hoped with all of our hearts that this terrible event would come to a swift close. We let out a short sigh of relief that the criminals had been captured and Boston was safe once again. However, we worried that religion would be soon brought into the discourse.
Part of our purpose here in Morocco is to engage in soft diplomacy. This translates to exchanging culture, both American and Moroccan. When religion was brought, by some news sources, into the dialogue of the Boston events, it became a source of conflict for me. The faces that I see everyday, who offer their sympathy and kindness, practice a religion that is peaceful and open. The religion that I have observed over the past year encourages blatant kindness and overwhelming hospitality. Not a day goes by where a person does not offer blessings to me or my family back home. This is the religion of the young girls and boys who come to my English class. It is the owner of the store on our street who has become our friend. It is the director at the youth center where we work. It is the god-fearing elderly lady to whom my wife gives money on the street. It is the taxi driver who generously offers me a bite of his sandwich. It is the young boy who strikes up a conversation with me on the train. These are the faces I see when people talk about Muslims.
As an American, I am livid at those who have caused my fellow countrymen pain. The guilty parties should be brought to justice. Any kind of extremist in the world, who subscribes to a terrorist set of beliefs, plays a real role in compromising the security of our country. Yet those extremists, who wish to insight terror under the cloak of religion, are following their own radical and inaccurate version. The people with whom I live and have grown to know and care about, are like you and me, they simply want to be happy and enjoy the life they are living. It is a terrible injustice to this peaceful religion to allow a few miscreants to stigmatize some of the most caring and generous people I have ever met. As Americans we must rise above the vitriol that causes terrorists to kill innocent people, and leave the judgment for others to decide. We should take a moment to remember the victims who lost their lives in the bombing attack and those who were injured and whose lives will be forever changed.