If you’re Brussels, then you must be Ankara. If you’re Paris, then you must be Beirut. If you’re San Bernardino, then you must be Oslo. If you’re Newtown, then you must be Peshawar. If only this list didn’t continue. If a city I mentioned is unfamiliar, add the word “attack” after it when you search it. Don’t allow your reaction to an atrocity compel you to be selective in your outrage and compassion. You’ll realize again and again and again that extremism is a brand alone that hangs on the fringe of every belief system that exists. It hopes that you give it a specific name. It begs that you encourage division through fear and ignorance. It prays that you discriminate its perpetrators and its victims. Any city that has experienced an atrocity bleeds for peace, yearns to heal, and seeks our compassion. So after we offer our thoughts and prayers, we must live them in how we respond together no matter the city.
I delivered a Khutbah (sermon) for the MakeSpace community about how Muslim and American values are one in the same when in the service of others even when facing bigoted, divisive, and hateful rhetoric that has claimed this election cycle. Using the example of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Linda Sarsour, and Dalia Mogahed, it’s reinvesting in our voice, our identity, and our civic duty can we truly reclaim our narrative.
While rotating in a hospital in Brooklyn, I was given a patient in the nursing home ward whose story offers perspective. You see, he was an elderly man whose love for a cigarette at times drove the wheelchair he moved around in. After reading his chart, I met him with a warm greeting only to be given a cool realness in return. He had the kind of awareness you don’t see often. You wouldn’t expect that he’d ever lose a limb to frostbite decades ago while meandering outside in frigid conditions. When I addressed and noted his primary concerns, I told him that I would do what I can to help better manage his health. “Thanks Doc,” he replied, offering a smile and a gracious nod as I left to prepare my report for my attending. While navigating the halls of the hospital, I wondered why he didn’t come back inside decades ago. It wasn’t until I read his history further did I find that at the time he had stopped taking his mediation that managed his schizophrenia.
You see, schizophrenia is a mental health issue that affects real people. They don’t just manage it. They have to live with its consequences. From a man that claims to be a giver of medicine, Dr. Ben Carson seems to have forgotten the empathy in it if he truly believes that Muslims who embrace American values have to be “schizophrenic.” When I gave my commitment to help this patient, I did so with concerted values as a Muslim, as an American, and as a Student of Medicine. These labels don’t conflict. They’re one in the same when their values are lived to their best in the service of others. My patient didn’t mind. My attending didn’t mind. Our shared field of profession didn’t mind. Maybe it’s not my mind he should be concerned with.