More than four decades after Muslims slaughtered seven people in a home he owned, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar argues at Time that blaming Islam for the Charlie Hebdo murders says more about our ignorance of Islam than it does about the shortcomings of the religion itself.
“Knowing that these terrorist attacks are not about religion, we have to reach a point where we stop bringing Islam into these discussions,” Abdul-Jabbar insists. “I know we aren’t there yet because much of the Western population doesn’t understand the Islamic religion.”
Forty-two-years ago this Sunday in Washington, D.C., the property that the Hall of Fame center purchased for his Islamic teacher’s use served as a stage for terrorism every bit as shocking as the ghoulish performance at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office. The Time article by the UCLA and Lakers great strangely never mentions the sectarian bloodbath that occurred under his roof.
The abridged version is that a crew of Philadelphia-based Nation of Islam (NOI) members invaded the home, murdering several adults and children execution style. They drowned a newborn baby in a bathtub. In slaying the children, a ringleader reasoned that “the seed of the hypocrite is in them.” The “hypocrite,” Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, had called NOI leader Elijah Muhammad “a lying deceiver” and judged his followers criminals disgracing the name of Islam in letters imprudently sent to numerous mosques.
Like the Charlie Hebdo murders, the assailants sought to avenge an insult to a venerated religious leader. Like the Charlie Hebdo murders, the assailants executed innocent, defenseless people, including five children ranging from a few days old to a fourth grader. Like the Charlie Hebdo murders, religion, not money or sex or power, primarily motivated the attacks.
“Violence committed in the name of religion is never about religion—it’s ultimately about money,” contends Kareem. It certainly wasn’t about money for multimillionaire 9/11 architect Osama bin Laden or architect-cum-tool Mohamed Atta. The villains who rampaged through Kareem’s house, though surely interested in whatever booty they came across, traveled down I-95 primarily to settle a religious score and not to commit a robbery more easily done closer to home. However poor the Kouachi brothers entered the world, the events that led to their departure from it stemmed from a total disregard for material things because of their fixation with matters spiritual.
Ironically, the man to whom Kareem gave a house, and who gave Kareem his name and assigned him a wife, made the same argument back then that the six-time NBA MVP makes now. Khaalis classified the killers of his relatives at their trial as “tricksters and murderers and gangsters that deviate on Islam.” Khaalis, contradicting his own depiction of Islam, conducted a murderous siege in Washington, D.C., a few years later that left a radio journalist dead and Marion Barry wounded.
One feels for Kareem, and every other Muslim horrified by terrorist attacks carried out in the name of their faith. It’s difficult to make sense of people doing something so hateful in the name of something one loves. So rather than reflect on the possible shortcomings of the beliefs that inspired the horrific acts, people caught in Kareem’s conundrum castigate bystanders supposedly misunderstanding the beliefs.
Kareem may be right that Westerners remain too far removed from Islam to understand it. But many Muslims stand too close to Islam to grasp a true picture. Muhammad didn’t tell his followers to turn the other cheek. Like the Black Muslims murdering children in Kareem’s house, and the more orthodox followers of Islam who unleashed carnage in Paris, Muhammad slaughtered heretics, apostates, and nonbelievers. The warrior-prophet set an example, something more powerful than words.
People who haven’t endured the jarring experience of religiously-inspired mass murder occurring in their homes might be forgiven for thinking Zoroastrians and Swedenborgians and Muslims all stand an equal chance of committing such carnage. People whose homes once acted as bloody, sectarian battlegrounds should know better.