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Boston, Baghdad & Birmingham

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Instead of feasting their feat, innocent men and women of all ages were limping and crying. In a matter of seconds, Boston became Baghdad on the tax day. Bodies, blood and broken limbs were on the streets of Boston and on the television screens of the nation. Everyone I knew, all faiths and ages, confessed that they watched the terror and tragedy through teary eyes. Intuitively human indeed, I said to myself.

I too raised my trembling hands and prayed for the perished and the survivors. I prayed more for the survivors, because they now have to live with the trauma. The perished will be in paradise, anyway. My faith tradition suggests that the death of an innocent in this world merits the best of God’s grace in the life hereafter. And I fervently pray for the perished of the Boston bomb blasts to receive the best of heaven.

As we mourn, we must also reaffirm that senseless violence and terror that subjects life to death (anywhere and by anyone) is always abhorrent. Period. Whether bombs go off in Boston or fall in Baghdad, our respect for life must always remain unconditional.

If questioned about the comparison of Boston to Baghdad as “untimely and unwise,” I would reply it is not only timely but also wise to question the moral and ethical disparities while being in the very midst of it. That is precisely what we learn from the writings of a modern prophet who was jailed in Birmingham in 1963.

Although Sixty years later, King’s prophetic words seem to have been written also for us and for today. Here are few of his words for our reflection.

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Closing his thoughtful “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King leaves us with this …

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

I say Amen to the prayer of King and add mine to his. I pray that all people, may they be Bostonians or Baghdadis live in love-drenched communities and free from fear of the other!

About Shakeel Syed

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10 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    April 17, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Some of the (minor?) prophets, as MLK Jr., were splendid universalists. Some wanted the USA to withdraw from the war — then taken by the USA deep into Vietnam and Cambodia. Some today want the USA to withdraw from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from its especially lawless drone attacks and torture and kidnapping and disappearance and detention without charge or trial or end.

    Terror is terror, the dread of daily terror killing is an especially horrible dread which many throughout the world feel but from which most Americans have been spared. Those of us Americans who do not feel that dread should take some time to try to imagine it, for it is a condition of life which our government’s armies and militias bring to many parts of the world — in our name.

    • just
      April 18, 2013, 9:10 am

      Well said, pabelmont.

      I have been talking about this for years now — to anyone that will give me 5 minutes. Most here in the US will not hear it. Many here say to me: “they hate us because of what we have and how wonderful America is”. (I try not to puke)

      My friends abroad feel much the same way that you, Shakeel and I do.

      I feel just awful about what happened in Boston. And I feel sick about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan because of our actions. I feel sick about what is happening in the Occupied territories with our blessing. I could go on and on and on………..but you both know it well.

      We are exploiting the Boston tragedy and continue to ignore the daily tragedies that are happening every moment– in our name.

      Thank you for this article, Shakeel.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    April 17, 2013, 4:12 pm

    RE: If questioned about the comparison of Boston to Baghdad as “untimely and unwise,” I would reply it is not only timely but also wise to question the moral and ethical disparities while being in the very midst of it. ~ Shakeel Syed

    “How the Power of Myth Keeps Us Mired in War”, by Ira Chernus,, 01/20/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . White Americans, going back to early colonial times, generally assigned the role of ‘bad guys’ to ‘savages’ lurking in the wilderness beyond the borders of our civilized land. Whether they were redskins, commies, terrorists, or the Taliban, the plot has always remained the same.
    Call it the myth of national security — or, more accurately, national insecurity, since it always tells us who and what to fear.
    It’s been a mighty (and mighty effective) myth. . .

    SOURCE –

  3. MHughes976
    April 17, 2013, 6:17 pm

    Yet King practised in respect of Zionism, an injustice somewhere threatening justice everywhere, all the reserve and discretion that he castigated so eloquently in other contexts. Ever since I read his 1959 Easter sermon it’s seemed clear to me that he was not a Zionist and that he was aware of the ME problem, being one of the very few distinguished Americans of those days who had visited the place. His alleged explicit support for Zionism seems to be based on false evidence but it does seem that he never explicitly challenged the consciences of the many Zionists who were strong supporters of his movement in the United States. No one can fight every battle, I suppose.

    • Annie Robbins
      April 17, 2013, 10:29 pm

      being one of the very few distinguished Americans of those days who had visited the place.

      mhughes, martin never visited israel: How Martin Luther King Jr. avoided visiting Israel

      • RoHa
        April 17, 2013, 11:19 pm

        But, as MHughes says, MLK did visit the Middle East.

      • MHughes976
        April 18, 2013, 5:59 am

        He visited what he called ‘Jerusalem, Jordan’ – a choice of words that indicates non-Zionism discreetly but quite clearly. He never mentioned the rhetoric of fulfilled prophecies or blooming deserts, scripturally based as both these are and steeped in the scriptures as he was. He was an intelligent and independent-minded observer and couldn’t have failed to notice what was going on. He carefully avoided, as you rightly say, annie, visiting the Israel of his time, but how can we interpret that but as part of his marked discretion about a topic that was so dangerous to the political alliances he was making and indeed to the consensus of enlightened Christians back then? After 59 the visit to the Holy Land was not mentioned much, as far as I can see.
        I think back to that Christian consensus. It was determined voices in the Church of England that most misled another Martin (me) back then.

  4. thetumta
    April 17, 2013, 10:16 pm

    As a five year old, maybe six? I saw police dogs and fire hoses in Alabama as we drove through. My parents were very frightened, I could smell it. We were not a racist family in the late 50’s which was unusual. If we and they were facing the Zionists, it probably would not have been clubs and vicious dogs. Live rounds instead. Even Jim Crow Sheriffs were not so bold in their killings.

    Hej! Tumta

  5. Andreas Schlueter
    April 18, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Maybe the Boston victims are much closer linked to the Baghdad victims than only by their sufferings. Maybe those ones in the US responsible for the sufferings in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Congo, Libya & Syria) could also be responsible for the Boston victims?! Possibly it could never be proven and staying a speculation, but the possibility has to be mentioned:
    Andreas Schlüter
    Berlin, Germany

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