Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God, the Extremely and Endlessly Loving and Caring

When you meet him, you are immediately struck by his humility, his kindness, and his awe-inspiring intelligence. Yet, you do not realize that you are standing next to a giant. A true giant, in every sense of the word.

Such was Professor Cherif Bassiouni, who passed away and was laid to rest last week after a long battle with cancer.

I knew him as a member of the Chicago-area American Egyptian community, and he was nothing but kind, warm, and gentle. His impact on me has been profound, and it was such an honor to be counted among many of those who knew him.

His impact on the world, however, will last millennia, if not for eternity. He taught law at DePaul University here in Chicago for over 40 years. More than this, though, he was truly the father of the International Criminal Court and of international human rights in general.

Almost single-handedly, he led the effort to investigate the tens of thousands of war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, and it was his effort that led to the prosecution of dozens of war criminals, including Slobodan Milosevic himself.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune:

“Cherif was a dreamer, but a practical dreamer,” said Doug Cassel, who co-founded DePaul University‘s International Human Rights Law Institute with Bassiouni in 1990. “He believed sooner or later the time would come when the world would see the wisdom of what he was advocating and he was right. He was advocating the use of international criminal law and international criminal courts to deter and punish the worst abuses against human rights.”

During his tenure, he investigated war crimes in Bosnia, worked behind the scenes for Middle East peace, monitored human rights in Afghanistan and helped craft Iraq’s new constitution after setting up the tribunal that tried the country’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Humanity will forever be indebted to him, and we pray for the salvation of his soul and for the comfort of his loving family.

And while it should not matter, in this day and age and in this toxic climate, it must be mentioned: Cherif Bassiouni was a Muslim. Just before he died, he wrote that his life was:

dedicated to the following three values represented by the following three quotes:

“If you see wrong, you must right it: with your hand if you can, or with your words, or with your stare, or with your heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” – Prophet Muhammad

“If you want peace, work for justice.” – Pope Paul IV

“The world rests on three pillars; on truth, on justice and on peace.” – Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel

While there are those who make lucrative livelihoods out of demonizing Islam and Muslims, trying very hard to marginalize us and our community, there are countless American Muslims who quietly live their lives serving others, contributing to the current and continued greatness of this country.

Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni was one of the American Muslim community’s best and most shining examples. May our Precious Beloved Lord bring him eternal rest and peace.

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