Can I Breathe Again?


Can I Breathe Again?


The fact that God repeats those words - with every hardship comes ease - is a much needed emphasis for those suffering, just in case they miss it the first time.

By Tarik Trad, April 17, 2007

All day long, I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. No doubt, I've felt it before - after the Murrah Building/Oklahoma City Bombing, the first World Trade Center attack, the horrors of 9/11, the Anthrax letters, the DC Sniper - now today.

While horribly sickened and saddened by the senseless loss of fellow Americans shot and killed on campus at Virginia Tech, I couldn't help but think: What if the shooter was a Muslim?

I'm not trying to sound selfish. First and foremost, my thought are with those families and friends. Their pain and grief must be overwhelming. During difficult times, I am reminded of the verses from the Qur'an (94:5-6) that state, "With every hardship comes ease. Verily, with every hardship comes ease!" The fact that God repeats those words - with every hardship comes ease - is a much needed emphasis for those suffering, just in case they miss it the first time. It is part of His mercy and compassion. I usually share these words with friends who have lost loved ones. Today, I am sharing them with all those affected by the tragedy in Blacksburg, Virginia. They need them as much as anyone else in the world.

That said, I wonder if anyone else was thinking the same way or can relate to what I was feeling? Was the entire world waiting to hear a similar outcome? Am I paranoid or should I have a genuine concern about the fate of American Muslims should another attack on our country come from our so-called co-religionists?

When the first video was played on CNN today, the name on the screen was Jamal Albarghouti. My heart sank, only to realize later he was the one shooting the video.

When I first heard the shooter was Asian, I thought, "What kind of Asian - South Asian? Afghani? Pakistani? Indonesian?" Should I feel better now that I know he is of Korean ancestry? Should I feel better that he is not a Muslim?

Now that we know the identify of the shooter, I don't feel any better. In fact, the pain in my stomach won't go away.

Personally, I'm sick and tired from carrying a burden that isn't mine, as if the shooter were a Muslim from my local mosque. Whether some sort of paranoia or a personal defensive mechanism, it's my own self-imposed form of guilt-by-association, and I hate it. I've got enough to worry about with my wife and kids and all the other important things in life. We need to be able to live our lives and not always worry about whether or not such events are going to happen again. Because they will. That is our test, our challenge, and our struggle. How we react to these tests and challenges and struggles is how we are defined, both on earth and the Hereafter. It is part of life.

For the most part, we live in a free and open society. With all the division between left and right, between race and religion, rampant drug and gun use combined with easy access to public spaces, malls, universities and houses of worship, I'm shocked we haven't had more Columbines and Virginia Techs to deal with.

Logically, of course, this was simply a random act by a lone, heartbroken gunman not affiliated with any group. Logically, of course, I shouldn't feel good about the situation. Logically, of course, we cannot control the acts of every zealot and madman intent on death and destruction.

Unfortunately, in today's reality, there is no logic - just more tragedy. But I will make sure my kids and friends and co-workers and anyone else who will listen will know, despite all the hatred and negativity that surrounds us, there is always hope for a better world. After all, with every hardship comes ease.

<i>Tarik Trad is a Muslim community activist based in Los Angeles, CA.</i>


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Tarik Trad, “Can I Breathe Again?,” The April 16 Archive, accessed February 23, 2020,