The rumors began to fly: all had been tied up, gagged, and their throats were slit. According to some reports, Sylvia Armanious, 15, had her throat slit "in line with Qur'an 47:4." Prior to the murders, Hossam Amranious, the father, was apparently warned by Muslim members of an internet chat room: "You'd better stop this bull-- or we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you." Authorities, they say, are trying to play down the apparent evidence that this was an "Islamic" killing because they are worried about inciting further violence between Muslims and Christians.
What's more, bloggers on the website www.jihadwatch.org stated: "The Armanious family had inspired several Muslims to convert to Christianity--or thought they had. These converts were actually practicing taqiyya, or religious deception, pretending to be friends of these Christians in order to strengthen themselves against them." I even received an email from a friend who told me, "The police and prosecutor are 'very scared' of this case. The Muslim community in Jersey City is putting enormous pressure on City Hall to soft-pedal the case."
Could we all please take a big, deep breath? This most unfortunate case highlights several important points. First, this is a horrible event; it was a particularly sad day for me as a Muslim and an American of Egyptian ancestry. No family should be murdered in the manner of the Armanious family.
Second, the authorities should exhaust every effort at finding the monsters who did this. No one should be "afraid" if the perpetrators turn out to be Muslim. This sort of brutality does not belong in America, let alone the American Muslim community.
Nevertheless, we must also not jump to conclusions about those responsible for the murder. We must be patient and wait for the authorities to sort out the facts. And some of these facts have already been explained: autopsy results revealed that the family's throats had not been slit; Sylvia's cross tattoo was not mutilated, as was first claimed. I am not saying that being stabbed in the neck is any better. I'm simply saying we must wait for the facts.
Remember Hesham Mohamed Hedayet, the LAX shooter of July 2002? Many claimed it was a "terror attack," especially since the victims were working at the ticket counter of El Al, the Israeli airline. Eventually we learned that the shooting was motivated by his personal financial problems--not terrorism.
Let's turn the tables: What if it had been a Muslim family that was murdered, and members of the Muslim community were quick to blame Coptic Christians? Would this be fair? No. Thus, let us wait for the facts.
If Muslims were behind this attack, there is no justification whatsoever in Islam. I do not care what scholar from whichever country and whatever historical era says otherwise. The Qur'an is clear: "do not take life that God has made sacred." Life, period. Verse 47:4 says: "Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in war), smite at their necks at length; when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom until the war lays down its burdens...". This verse speaks about fighting the enemy in battle; it is not a "field manual" for slitting the throats of innocent non-Muslims. This verse would apply just as much if an enemy attacked America, and Muslims took up arms to defend their country.
Although some Muslims claim the Qur'an forbids Muslims from making non-Muslim friends, this interpretation is incorrect. The Qur'an is quite clear about relations with non-Muslims: "God does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who do neither fight you for your faith nor drive you out of your homes. For God loves those who are just" (60:8). In fact, the Qur'an says, "...nearest among [people] in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, 'We are Christians'; because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant" (5:82).
Fourth, though there are tensions between the Egyptian Christian and Muslim communities, this tragedy should not be cause for increasing these tensions. Instead, this should be an opportunity to reach out to each other and focus on what both communities have in common. Both communities in Jersey City have tried, and this is excellent. It must continue.
Furthermore, we must never let overseas tensions bubble over to our shores. It is part of God's plan that there be Egyptian Muslims and Christians; Palestinian Muslims and Christians; American Muslims and Christians. The most important thing is for all people of faith to "strive as in a race in all virtues." We should always work together for the common good. If, after this tragedy, we can learn to do this the Armanious family will not have died in vain.