Remembering A Friend – And In Doing So, The Key Founding Principle Of Our Country

I first met Mark when he was still in high school. His family were recent immigrants to the United States and shared a mutual friend of the family. They operated a restaurant in my hometown, and were finally ready to step up to their part of the American dream and purchase their first house. Our friend had referred them to my father to act as their realtor, and I assisted him in the transaction.

At age 15, Mark understood the housing market and business transactions better than most twice his age. It became clear when showing homes that he would actually been the deciding force in which home was purchased, and I quickly learned to make sure he understood and was pleased with the implications of each potential home. It was truly a special day when the family closed on their first home, and the celebration afterward with a large extended family was one to behold.

It was shortly after this time that I made my one and only run for public office, and Mark volunteered for my campaign, doing whatever was asked of him and initiating other tasks in his spare time. He loved his new home country, and seemed to understand and appreciate both the benefits and responsibilities of being an American better than many of us who inherited our citizenship. He took his entry level participation in politics seriously, but did so with an infectious enthusiasm that made all of us who came in contact with him appreciate our own country of birth even more.

Like most immigrants from his country, Mark’s family was quite religious, but my town didn’t have a Catholic parish for them to worship in. They chose a parish on the other side of Atlanta to worship with, because they had a long term plan to open a new parish within a few miles of their new home. The only time the family was not at the restaurant, they were usually involved some activity related to their congregation. Between his school schedule, work, and church, I understood how valuable the time he donated to my campaign, and later others, was. But he loved America, appreciated the Republican approach to freedoms within limited government, and wanted to do his part as a good citizen.

I made a point to eat lunch in Mark’s restaurant a few days after 9/11. Though he was in school, his mother had time to sit and talk with me on that rather sad day. I was especially interested in their perspective as “new” Americans, and wanted to make sure they were holding up well under the circumstances, though I still wasn’t sure many of us “old” Americans were holding up that well, either. She told me how much they remained proud to be here in this country, and to have been allowed to be a part of it. She spoke of how many others had been checking on the family during this time, reassuring them that everything was going to be O.K. It was a brief time, you may remember, when we were all Americans. There were no Republicans, there were no Democrats.

Before I left, I asked her if there was anything she needed. She told me that she had been searching for an American Flag to fly in front of the Restaurant, but all the stores had sold out. I told her I would see what I could do. It took about three days and a search committee of about 10 of my fellow Kiwanians, but she received a large flag that flew in front of her restaurant for years after.

I was able to work on a few campaigns with Mark before he went off to college. Through his hard work, good grades, and community activities, he was able to receive a scholarship to the University of Southern California. We traded the occasional note and visited when he came home during breaks. He maintained his enthusiasm and love of country. And I looked forward to him coming home after a summer foreign exchange trip to finish out a primary campaign which I was working on.

I stopped by the restaurant after the town’s 4th of July Parade and saw the sign on the door. As I looked closer and was realizing it wasn’t just a standard “Closed for the Holiday” sign, Mark’s father walked up behind me. The look on his face and the posture of his body instantly connected with the words “family emergency” on the sign. A proud man who rarely showed emotion, he instantly broke down as he tried to explain to me that Mark’s body was being flown into Atlanta that afternoon. He had drowned on the last day of his trip. He asked if there was any way I would be able to attend the funeral with the family that afternoon.

I agreed to go without hesitation, despite the campaign activities that were planned for the rest of the day. A grieving father’s personal request trumps parades and BBQ’s any day. But I didn’t understand why the funeral was that afternoon when he was not even home yet.

And this is where I should explain that Mark’s name was not Mark, but Mohammed, and his family was not Catholic, but Muslim. Muslim custom is that a person is buried before sundown, and thus he would be taken directly from his plane to the family’s mosque for a funeral service, then directly to the cemetery for burial. It is the only time I have ever been in a mosque, but I can attest that grief looks the same no matter the type of house of worship.

*****************************************************

So, I’ve told you that so we can discuss this; Last week, a gunman at Ft Hood Texas opened fire on his fellow soldiers and civilians, killing 13 and wounding an additional 30. It’s easy to put this in the trite category of “senseless tragedy”, but the magnitude of the dead and wounded, the religion of the killer, and the fact he was preparing to deploy to a warzone that many now feel the country has lost its will to support will no doubt keep this story alive for some time to come. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved in this senseless act.

Unfortunately, there have already been many to single out the religion of the murderer as a singular sign that he “should have been watched” or should not have been in the military altogether. Since 9/11, it has been very easy to point to Muslims as guilty before proven innocent members of society. Anecdotal evidence of 3000 dead at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or 13 dead at Ft. Hood makes a quick, off the cuff justification of doing so simple. It does not, however, make it right.

As easy as I switched the name and religion in my story, the same could be done for a terrorist named El-Amin who bombed sporting events, night clubs, and medical facilities targeting Americans, except that his name was Eric Robert Rudolph and he was a zealot of the Christian variety.

Instead of trying to choose between good religions and bad, I think it much easier as well as more appropriate to concern ourselves with zealots of any caliber. Yet, even trying to determine where the line is where one has crossed from devout into zealotry is problematic, and suggesting the government should have a standard for this stretches the limits of the Constitution.

I would ask my many Facebook friends who have been calling for Muslims to be restricted in their roles within the Armed Services how they would feel if Christians were similarly singled out. While I’m sure there are many who will offer the simplistic answer that we were founded as a “Christian Nation”, I would ask them what their reaction was when they learned that various “right wing”, mostly Christian groups were listed as potential terrorist organizations by the U.S. Justice Department earlier this year.

At the end of the day, I do not fear Muslims. I fear zealots of any religion. But the greatest fear of all is that of a government that views religion in general as a destabilizing, threatening force. We have for the last decade or more pointed at Islamic regimes in the middle east as a threat to our national security. I would suggest we take a harder look at the use of the actions of zealots as an excuse to monitor or track religious activities of those we don’t agree with, or those we fear.

Once the pattern and practice is established, it does not take much for the government to change the names of those under surveillance from Mohammed to Mark. We should not be allowing our fears for national security to lay the groundwork for additional intrusions or limitations upon or freedom of religion. If we allow the precedent to be set with Muslims, we should not be surprised when the government wishes to track the Methodists.

42 comments

  1. I haven’t seen any coverage of it on Peach Pundit, but I believe that this Thursday is the rescheduled date for the Lilburn Planning and Zoning Commission hearing. A group of Muslims in Gwinnett applied for a variance to build a mosque in Lilburn, and the locals went apes**t. The hearing was supposed to have been last month, but they postponed it to find a bigger venue.

    Ostensibly the issue is parking, but I don’t personally know how legitimate that is. There’s a lot of overflow street parking in my neighborhood on Sunday too, but I don’t recall any of the Catholic or Protestant churches responsible for it ever being protested.

    Whatever the particulars may be, I wish they had gone ahead and held the hearing prior to this Ft. Hood incident. Good look finding a cool head or sane person there now…

    • You’re right that the Lilburn thing will be even more emotional now but in fairness to the folks in Lilburn, they already have a huge Buddhist Temple in town. I’m not sure bigotry is the major motivation here.

      I’ve heard rumors which I cannot back up so I won’t publish them now but I think there are other factors which have some of the residents riled up.

      BTW, folks raised hell in Snellville recently about plans by a Catholic Church to expand.

  2. What has been posted here is very touching; and that should not be lost.

    As easy as it would be for our Armed Services to simply exclude people of the Islamic faith – that would be ignoring the issue. Irregardless of the man’s faith, it should have been evident that he had become a problem. Had a Christian man done precisely the same, no one would have moved to remove them. Atheists? Same result.

    The problem at Ft. Hood was not that the man was Muslim – the problem was that despite obvious warning signs he was allowed to continue serving.

    • There’s always a strong impulse to find someone to blame, but I wouldn’t be too quick to blast the Army. We’ve been fighting two wars for almost a decade now, and at no point have we really committed the resources needed to keep from stretching ourselves too thin. If the Army had to boot everyone who showed signs of being ready to snap, they would be booting people 24/7.

      Same thing with school shootings. After each one, the school administration gets blamed for not “heeding the signs”. Hell, about 25% of my high school showed the usual “signs”… what’s an administration supposed to do?

      • I tend to agree; there is a distinct line between identifying a problem and assigning blame for it. While that line is often unidentifiable when drawn by some, I would like to establish it a bit more clearly.

        I don’t think the army is to blame, nor is the person’s religion. Certainly we can see some merit in being a bit more thorough in watching for these warning signs now though, right?

  3. Lifetime367 says:

    This is by far the best post that I’ve ever read on PeachPundit. Frankly it should be submitted to Newsweek, the WSJ and others, including the papers in Georgia. I hate the terrorists, but this posting/column is the kind of reminder that we all need from time to time that we are a nation of immigrants and a nation built on religious freedom. When we forget that, the terrorists have won just as surely as if they had taken over the government and raised their flag over the Capitol.

  4. SpaceyG says:

    Dang, Icky Man. Who knew you could really write?! This a FAR too good material to waste on the cretins and illiterates of Peach Pundit. PLEASE publish it somewhere else.

    • Doug Deal says:

      And to the moderators, can we delete spacey’s insulting post as a clear threadjack to make it about her and her hatred of Erick. Feel free to include my response.

      Also, is it too much to ask to get rid of her for good?

    • I am oftentimes snarky, and sometimes I can be mean without being funny. I’m very grateful that Spacey has been reappearing on Peach Pundit lately… to remind us of exactly where the line is, and what we look like to others when we cross it.

  5. Joshua Morris says:

    Whatever happened to responsibility? The tragedy at Fort Hood was clearly the result of irresponsible leadership within the US Army and US intelligence agencies. The gunman’s fellow soldiers had questioned his loyalty to this Nation and alerted their superiors of these concerns, and intelligence agencies knew he had tried to contact Al-Qaeda.

    We’re so busy trying to be politically correct and unoffensive that we have let down our guard regarding what matters most–the safety of our People.

    Prudent leadership sees danger based on previous experience and clear signs of suspicious or problematic behavior. Whether Hasan were an Islamist extremist or a militant “Methodist,” he should not have been an officer in the US Army, based on his record.

    Why can’t we get over the religion comparisons and ultra-sensitivity to a particular group and just use our brains? “Mohammed to Mark?” Who cares what the name of the enemy is? If someone proves himself dangerous to this Nation’s security, he should be dealt with as such.

  6. Tricia says:

    Beautifully said, Ic.

    You state you are concerned about zealots of any religion. I agree. I am also concerned, however, about anti-religion zealots. This country was founded on and for freedom of religion. We should all, muslims included, be allowed to practice our religion without persecution. We shouldn’t have to hide the practicing or appreciation of our religion so others aren’t offended. We don’t have to agree with every religion, but we have to be respectful.

  7. Great post Icarus. We must oppose violent extremism no matter the flavor.

    My concern is the rush among some to say “this was not a terrorist attack” simply because we didn’t find an al-Qeada membership card in his pocket. The Fort Hood attack was terrorism, just as 9/11 was, and Oklahoma City was, and when ELF burns down buildings is.

    • GOPGeorgia says:

      I agree with a lot of what I have seen posted on this subject today. Specifically, I agree the most with Josh, Trica and Buzz.

      We cannot give in and start thinking that all Moslems are bad people. As for the ones who claim that there is a jihad against the west and openly call for the destruction of Israel and the United States, as far as I am concerned, we are at war with them. The wars that we are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq are seen as isolated wars. For those who see them that way, I am telling you that you are wrong. Those wars are part of a global war on terror. The minute we think it’s over without those calling the shots for radical terrorists calling for an end of using violence and terror as political tools, we are in trouble.

      I like to watch MMA or for the old people on here, that’s boxing with a little more thrown in. In MMA or boxing, you can get knocked out when you let your guard down.

      As far as Fort Hood goes, Hasan blew a fuse. Something went wrong in his head. He knew he was going to die and he was out to take as many people as possible with him. Crackpot, yes. Terrorist, I think he meets the definition. I think he wanted to make political change using terror. He tried to contact Al-Qaeda. He should have been booted out of the Army just for that. People should loose their jobs over this attack. People lost their lives.

      Icarus’ friend Mohammed sounds like he was a nice guy. The world would be a better place with more people like him than Hasan.

  8. Capt. Jack Sparrow says:

    Yes, it was a well written and thoughtful post. And, yes, Mark sounds like a fine young man. However, some balance does need to be included.

    Primitive Baptists aren’t big on dancing, gambling, or drinking. Southern Baptists are generally opposed to gambling and drinking (though not necessarily in that order!). Episcopalians and Presbyterians seem less bothered by drinking and Catholics have no problems with bingo. But none of these denominations call for the taking of an infidel’s life.

    The Christian (Protestant and Catholic) faith as practiced by Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Church of God, Assemblies of God, African Methodist Episcopal, Southern Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Free Will Baptists, and many more too numerous to list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations) all have one thing in common: the belief in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. They all follow a Bible that calls for prayers for our enemies, willingness to give possessions to those that steal them, and sacrifice of life to others in order to follow the example of Jesus.

    The Koran/Qur’an has a different teaching:
    • Allah is an enemy to unbelievers. – Sura 2:98
    • On unbelievers is the curse of Allah. – Sura 2:161
    • Slay them wherever ye find them and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. – Sura 2:191
    • Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme. – Sura 2:193 and 8:39
    • Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. – Sura 2:216
    • If you should die or be killed in the cause of Allah, His mercy and forgiveness would surely be better than all they riches they amass. If you should die or be killed, before Him you shall all be gathered. – 3:157-8
    • But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them. – Surah 4:89
    • Believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people. – 5:54
    • Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme – 8:39
    • Allah will humble the unbelievers. Allah and His apostle are free from obligations to idol-worshipers. Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers. – 9:2-3
    • When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. – 9:5
    • Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey’s end. – 9:73
    • Allah has purchased of their faithful lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, kill and be killed. – 9:111
    • Fight unbelievers who are near to you. 9:123 (different translation:
    Believers! Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you. (another source: ) Ye who believe! Murder those of the disbelievers….
    • When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens. – 47:4
    • Muslims are harsh against the unbelievers, merciful to one another. – 48:25
    • Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal sternly with them. Hell shall be their home, evil their fate. – 66:9

    This nation was not founded on freedom of religion as many believe. It was founded on freedom to worship the Christian God in the denomination and manner of one’s own choosing. The issue was how various Christian denominations and sects were treated; not whether all religions were equally valid.

    I’m sure this will stir up some comments, but I am not going to post again or get involved in any back and forth on this issue. I will probably get “negative points” for my “intolerant” post. So what; I’m right. Read the history of the founding of this nation. If we choose to ignore the obvious threat of Islam, we will get what we deserve.

    “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Thomas Jefferson (inscribed on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial)

    • Aww hell… pretty much every scripture book is crazy if you read it in the entirety and take everything literally. Yeah, Christian fundamentalists have the old loophole that “Jesus ‘re-explained’ the portions of the Old Testament that we don’t like”. However, even before Jesus it wasn’t like the Jews were literally stoning people to death for picking up sticks on a Saturday. Nobody even comes close to all the literal text except for maybe the Amish.

  9. Holly says:

    There are moments when I wish that Spacey still had posting privileges here. And then, sadly, she reminds me why she does not.

    It’s too bad, really. I liked it quite a bit better when there were more Democrats who posted on the front page. It gave the place more balance.

  10. Bucky Plyler says:

    Your friend Mark & this gunman’ s story have very little in common. The more facts that are coming out about the Ft. Hood incident point to the conclusion that it was a terrorist attack.

    If the government was doing surveillance because this guy was a Muslim, then they did a poor job. If they were even doing it because of his statements & associations, then they did a poor job.

    It would be a big stretch & you should be surprised if the gov’t begins surveillance on Methodists. As far as I know, the Methodists of your persuasion are not calling for the destruction of Israel, killing of infidels, etc.

    I like your story, but your conclusions are all wrong.

    • benevolus says:

      BP, that is all wrong, and I think you know it.
      The government isn’t conducting surveillance on Muslims just because they are Muslims, and I don’t think they could even if they wanted to. Hopefully they are conducting surveillance on anyone who seems to be a threat, and I’m not sure that “calling for the destruction of Israel” even qualifies (the “destruction” of Israel doesn’t necessarily involve bombs). If there happens to be more Muslims than Methodists requiring surveillance right now, then fine. But I doubt that anything else can be extrapolated from that.

          • Bucky Plyler says:

            Looks like you’re trying to pick a fight, so here’s the point since it’s not obvious to you.

            * This man had been vocal for some time, yet PC kept him in the Army AND in the command structure. Now good soldiers are dead with their families dealing w/ the actions of this gunman. Perhaps it’s the same PC that Icarus espouses. (hope that’s not true but that’s what it looks like to me)
            * Icarus made the Methodist reference because he is Methodist. I don’t know of any Methodists who are talking about terrorist actions against America or our military. If they were talking about it, then they should come under surveillance. (bad comparison by Icarus in my judgement)
            * Many Muslims do believe that the US is the great Satan, that Israel should be destroyed, that all who do not bend the knee to Allah should die, that conversion to Islam can come by subjucation, ETC. If more Muslims would renounce these things then everybody would be safer. (If you claim to be a Muslim, I hope you don’t believe these things…not all who profess to be Muslims believe this stuff.)

            I hope this clears up things for you.

          • Fawkes says:

            Bucky,

            Islam has millions of followers world-wide. It is also the fastest growing religion. If all Muslims believed the way you claim: “Death to Israel, America is Great Satan, etc”, wouldn’t the world be in mass hysteria as Muslims world-wide tried to kill off all Christians and Jews? Yes, there is violence in the world, but I would argue that “radical Islam” is a small fringe of the national religion.

  11. MikeS says:

    Islam practices by many Muslims is a fair and honorable religion. However, Heretics/Cults rise up in Islam as they do in many religions. Most of the terrorists are more Heretics than true Muslims. The Black Panthers were heretics as is Bin Ladin. Traditional Islam needs to wage a campaign, a holy campaign against those who want to re-interrupt Islam. Now, I do not want to appear that I do not recognize some of the Theological problems with Islam, but the best way to defeat Islamic Cults is to encourage counter reformation like drives of the traditional Islamic leaders.

    • ByteMe says:

      Near as I can tell, the best way is to have a long-term holding pattern of military action against the mad bombers while encourage the creation of a strong middle class that has a stake in their own society/country and educating their women so they’re more likely to have fewer children and more of a stake in their society.

      Of course, this also means that some of the countries need to stop sucking on the oil teet and using that to hold power in the hands of a very few.

Comments are closed.