Search me, O God, and know my heart:  try me and know my thoughts:  and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalms 139:23-24

The horrible events disrupting the Boston Marathon continue to ripple through the country, and knowing the perpetrators considered themselves Muslim has caused many concerns regarding faith and religion to return to the surface.  This subject is raw and uncomfortable, and my heart joins with my 300 million fellow Americans in praying for the welfare of those involved and their rapid healing.

However, I also wanted to learn something from those who share my right to religious freedom, and hear what they have to say for themselves.  Were these wicked men claiming a faith that wasn’t theirs, or were they simply misguided?

First, I spoke with a friend of mine who is the Imam for the largest private Christian university in the US.  “Islam does not need to defend itself,”  he said.  “It saddens me when I am immediately approached and told I must defend my faith.  What happened is absolutely horrible, and I and my congregation join with millions of Muslims across the country in praying for the healing of all involved.  There is no way to defend what those two men did.  Even if they were Muslim in the beginning, the very instant they determined to hurt an innocent being they ceased to be Muslim in their hearts.  At Final Judgment, they may very well seek to defend their actions, but even God will not recognize their claim to Islam.  Their actions prove they are not Muslim, so we have no need to defend our faith – it was not shared in any way that counts by the perpetrators.”

Second, I visited with a friend who retired from the Kuwaiti air force and lives in the US.  “It breaks my heart that people were hurt so badly, and it grieves me that the perpetrators claim my faith.  God declares in the Qur’an that to harm even a single person – to hurt an innocent, a noncombatant, a bystander – is to hurt all of mankind.  To kill an innocent is to kill all of mankind.  (Qur’an 5:32)  I am grateful for the first responders and emergency personnel, for God declares in the same breath that to save even one soul is the same as saving all mankind.  Why do these people who do such terrible things not even read the Holy Book they are claiming to follow?  They were not Muslim by any measure, regardless of what they called themselves.”

Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri of Minhaj USA speaks very strongly against violence perpetrated for the sake of faith.  Immediately after 9/11 he wrote an extensive fatwah condemning all terrorism and faith-based violence.  I heard him speak last Spring, introduced by his friend and long-time admirer Allen Scott Bachman, Chair of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.  During his remarks, a passionate Dr. ul-Qadri iterated, “We are all of us created by God – how can we, acting in disregard to the laws of society, take the life of a fellow being and expect God not to be angered?”

And my friend Dean Obeidallah, comedian, documentarian, and writer for CNN, recently wrote his reaction to the religion-focused backlash of the tragic events.  Dean is a Muslim, and he hates terrorism – in all its forms and iterations.  He points out that US Muslims and Muslim organizations continually denounce terrorism, and although less than 3% of Americans are Muslim (The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimated only 0.8% in 2010) 7 out of 10 recent Al Qaeda plots in the US were foiled by tips from the American Muslim community.

My conclusion?  Evil people are evil.  The religion an evil person may claim to follow is evidence of his delusion, not an indictment of the religion.  Gandhi said, “If a few drops of water in the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”  And it is much less of a burden on each of us to allow a Higher Power to do the judging, rather than assuming that one and a half billion people share the evil delusions of a few.

The only good Muslim, in my experience, is almost all of them.

Whether ye hide what is in your hearts or reveal it, Allah knows it all

Qur’an 3:29