Friday, February 13, 2015

What Is in a Name?

I wager that the hate criminal who assassinated “the Three Winners” in Chapel Hill acted mainly out of ignorance. Had he comprehended the literal meaning of their names and realized that these foreign looking young people had apparently lived and acted under the moral obligation inspired by their names, he would have chosen others to kill. The mainstream media seems to take the crime in its stride and not accord it much attention. Those who did apparently took it as another exceptional event committed by a crazy individual acting alone on his vengeance motive against neighbors with whom he had a running argument over a parking space.  That is the automatic explanation given the commonality of the offender’s characteristics: a white nominal Christian who is uncomfortable with people of different culture and looks. The responsible law enforcement authorities in North Carolina, as in most other locales across the USA, may well find the man to suffer from temporary insanity. But I am not absolving him of responsibility for his crime on such basis. Rather, even with his deep-seated hate of Islam and apparently of religiosity in general, I still think that simple ignorance must have had much to do with his criminal thinking and action. I don’t think that any human being with average intelligence and a conscience, flawed, dark and clouded as it may well be, , would have opted to kill three people with as much decency and potential of service to mankind.

Just dwell with me for a moment please on the deeper meaning of the names of the three people that Chapel Hill has lost. Accept for a moment please my simplistic assumption that, as innocent children or perhaps as ambitious young adults, they must have contemplated the meaning of their names and possibly aspired to act on the basis of their essence. We all know that children do that, don’t they? And who knows that better than Dr. Muhammad abu-Salha, the psychiatrist father of Yusor and Razan: First the family names: Barakat – Blessings – inspires a sense of decency and goodwill. Match that, if you will, with Abu-Salha – The One with Benevolence or of the Benevolent Deed. Now to the first names of “the Three Winners:” Razan had the least common sounding name, at least to my ear. Is that because of its Kurdish origin in one interpretation? Or is it because of abstract connotation of its Arabic root of respectability and aloofness. In contrast Deah’s bright ‘Lights’ shine on his surroundings. And it is combined with the second name of Shaddy, the ‘singer’ of pleasant tunes. Take a look at this recent video where he asks for donations in support of his pet project of reaching out to Syrian refugees in Turkey with dental supplies and equipment. You can see how luminous and sweet-sounding the young man’s promise was to the needy whether in his homeland of Syria or in his adopted home of North Carolina where he volunteered to care for the destitute and homeless. No wonder his target of $20,000 has been exceeded fifteen folds with168 days still to go. As to his bride, Yusor, you hear the name and your heart opens to the promise of ‘respite’ and ‘relief.’ In the Koran the good Lord reassures all believers; “Inna m’aa el-‘usri yusra – Verily relief will accompany hardship,” the promise sustaining Moslems under the most devastating of calamities, a refrain that must be repeating endlessly in the minds and hearts of the bereaved families in their hour of need and shattering loss.

The fiercest animals of prey are known to respond favorably to the kindness and good intentions of their keepers. Shouldn’t the jailors of the criminal assassin consider a session or two with an Arab linguist who could explain to the man the tender and decent essence of the names of his victims? Or would that be too harsh a punishment, I wonder, assuming he has a heart at all and a mind to comprehend? The American mainstream media first abstained from reporting this event altogether. Then it quoted the law-enforcement authority in offering a parking space dispute as the explanation for the murder. Does that represent the condition of its readership of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and saying no evil, and by extension of allowing no remediation of evil? Let us hope not. Let us all take to heart the inspirational meaning of those lovely Arabic names as a healing potion. Let us pray for all of us including the atheists!

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