Published by CJ Werleman Independent, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project that seeks to expose and end Western injustices against Muslims. Please SUPPORT his fight against injustice by clicking here.
We live in an age of hyperpolarized division, one in which political opportunists seize upon racial and ethnic grievances for the purpose of recruiting the marginalized and vulnerable to their respective missions.
Extremists on all sides of the political spectrum hand feed narratives meant to affirm our respective biases and prejudices — with the intention of agitating and mobilizing support for their cause. We live in a cynical world alongside cynical operators, not helped by a media landscape that preys on our cynicism and deepest fears.
Against this backdrop, extremists grow louder; their support becomes broader, while the voices of moderation, compromise, and tolerance become ever smaller. More than any other time in recent memory, we are in desperate need for those who can transcend our imagined divides.
We are in need of heroes. We are in need of those who lead by moral example, those who demonstrate love trumps hate, and forgiveness breaks the cycle of vengeance.
On a Sunday afternoon in late September, Dr. Kurdy was stabbed in the neck from behind as he arrived at Altrincham Islamic Center in Greater Manchester for evening prayers.
“From out of nowhere, I get a sharp thump on the side of my neck, completely out of nowhere. It was a total surprise,” Dr. Kurdy explained to me when recounting the attack. “But the pain was quite something. I had thought initially that someone with a bat had taken a swing at me.”
Dr. Kurdy, who was still unaware he had been stabbed with a knife, turned around to face his attacker who was standing just four to five feet away from him. “This is for what you have done,” Dr. Kurdy’s assailant proclaimed, seemingly attempting to justify his act of random violence by tying all Muslims to ISIS inspired terror attacks.
Dr. Kurdy, sensing his attacker was now committed to finishing the grisly task he had started, turned and ran into the Islamic center. Once inside, however, Dr. Kurdy told me the fear he felt for himself was suddenly replaced by a fear he felt for the two Muslim ladies who already inside the house of worship. “If you fear for yourself, you are weak. But if you fear for others, you are strong,” Dr. Kurdy told me as he tried to explain the predominant thought that washed over him in that panicked moment.
Drawing strength from that, which he says gave him a sudden duty to protect whom Dr. Kurdy described as his “sisters,” he grabbed a chair and stepped out of the center to re-confront the man who had plunged a knife into the back of his neck.
His suspected attacker, however, who would later be identified as 28-year-old Anthony Ian Rook, had already fled the scene, and shortly thereafter Dr. Kurdy, who was now nursing a 7.5 centimeter (3 inch) gash to the back of his neck, would soon be rushed to hospital.
A mere 24 hours after the attack, Dr. Kurdy had forgiven the man who tried to kill him. Drawing strength from his wife, community and faith, Dr. Kurdy told me, “A person’s environment controls a person’s feelings and actions. In order to understand my statement the following morning, you need to obviously understand my environment, and that means my family, where I live, my friends, my colleagues, my family abroad etc, because these are the contacts I had before giving that interview. So first of all I had friends coming to visit me at the hospital, and if people weren’t told they were allowed to stay, there would have been 200 to 300 people attending the hospital that evening. That’s how lovely the society and community is that I live in…So from the minute I was stabbed and from then onwards I was surrounded by lovely, great people, with a lot of great support and assurances etc.”
Dr. Kurdy then explained how he was discharged from hospital later that same night, and that by the time he got home he became aware that reports of his attack were being televised across global news outlets. He said the well wishes he received were overwhelming, but sprinkled among the well wishes from complete strangers were those who expressed a want to exact revenge on his behalf.
“That was the moment things started to turn for me. I told my son to get on that [social media] platform, and in no uncertain terms say ‘my dad is not angry and he doesn’t want anyone to be angry on his behalf. I was not going to allow anything on the media to start spurring up in my name,” he said.
At that moment, Dr. Kurdy received a phone call from his uncle, who quoted to him a verse from the Quran: “Nothing will befall you except was has been written to you.” His uncle adding, “Don’t be angry about it. Just pray to God it wasn’t anything worse, and then get on with it.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Dr. Kurdy had this to say about his would-be killer, “He is not representative of what this country stands for. I have absolutely no anger or hate, or anything negative towards him. I have declared it, I have totally forgiven him. He could be a marginalized person within his own community.”
When I asked Dr. Kurdy what kind of impact his attack had on his community, he explained, “There is no sense in us behaving as victims. That doesn’t sort anything out. We need to behave as people who are ready to take on hate crimes. We need to be proactive in the process. We need to be positive in our approach. To be relevant to the process that is going to get rid of hate within our community. We need to engage with other organizations that engage with other and all forms of hate, and promote equality and diversity across the board. Islamophobia is one form of hate crime, but our community needs to be involved in fighting all forms of hate.”
The next time someone claims religious belief is exclusively or primarily a source for hate and division, remember these words by Dr. Nasser Kurdy.
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