Aitazaz Hassan: a typical Moslem

Maybe you don’t trust him. Maybe you even fear him.

Here in the U.S., there’s a very strong anti-Moslem sentiment from a large segment of the population. Don’t bother denying it in the comments, I live here and I know.

Most of those who fear or mistrust followers of Islam have an image of the “typical” Moslem being a terrorist, ready to die with assurances that beautiful virgins await him in heaven, if only he can send some infidels to hell when the bomb goes off.

I think that the “typical” Moslem is a lot like the typical Christian. A lot like the typical Jew. A lot like, well, the folks who live next door to you.

And I know of at least one Moslem (may he rest in peace) who gave his own life to save others from the kind of extremist violence that stains the history of every religion. Here’s the story from NBC News:

Aitazaz Hassan is being hailed as a hero in his hometown after the Pakistani teenager sacrificed his life to save others, tackling a suicide bomber outside his school.
By Mushtaq Yusufzai, Producer, NBC News

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Tributes were paid Thursday to a high school student who officials say foiled a suicide bomb attack in an act of “bravery” that cost him his life.

Aitazaz Hassan, 17, was killed instantly – but police and school officials said the lives of up to 1,500 other students at the school in Pakistan had been saved.

“My son did a heroic job and I am proud of his bravery,” said the boy’s grieving father, Mujahid Ali.

The teenager challenged the would-be bomber at the school entrance, said Lal Baz Ali, principal of the state-run Ibrahimzai High School, in the Hangu district of Pakistan’s volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.

After a “physical” scuffle, the bomber – wearing a jacket carrying about 13 pounds of explosives – detonated the device, killing the teenager instantly.

“It would have been terrible had he succeeded entering the school building,” Lal Baz told NBC News by telephone.

Tributes were paid to the boy on social media Thursday, with the hashtag #onemillionaitzazs trending on Twitter in Pakistan and elsewhere.

An anti-Shia sectarian militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claimed responsibility for Monday’s botched attack, in an area close to the Afghan border. It is thought Shia students at the school were the intended targets.

Lal Baz said Hassan was a brave, polite and talented student – and that the school was proud of his actions.

He said Hassan noticed when the bomber arrived in a car and began walking towards the school building.

“The bomber was dressed in school uniform and asked Aitazaz Hassan about school. He asked him why he wanted to enter the school, he told him he wanted to see the principal and that got Aitazaz suspicious and he engaged in a physical clash with him,” the teacher recalled.

Pakistani security personnel examine the site of a suicide bombing in the Ibrahimzai area of Hangu district on Monday.

Hangu police chief, Iftikhar Ahmad, said the teenager sacrificed his life but saved up to 1,500 other students and teacher.

Our series on “smoothing” will resume soon.


15 responses to “Aitazaz Hassan: a typical Moslem

  1. Thanks for that.

  2. When we got Iranian couple for neighbours, then our understanding went up several notches. There were some fun cultural misunderstandings at first (ones American’s make in NZ too) but they have become friends rather than just neighbours and have given us new vistas as to the diversity of the moslem world (obviously especially interesting insights into Iran. I recommend the film “A Separation” for a look into Iran. They believe it captures the society they know well).

  3. One of my mother’s aides is muslim, and becoming more devout, but over the years she has become one of my lifetime closest friends. I, a mystical atheist (go figure), share spiritual insights with her quite often. We are too ready to dismiss awareness of our cultural habituations. At the core of most of the world’s religions, if you look closely, is a desire to be connected and to do well for our friends and neighbors.

    It’s time to stop it with the hating! And that goes for teapartiers too. They just need a broader definition of family and friends, and putting them on the defensive is not going to make that happen.

    United we stand, divided we fall.

  4. Thanks for this, Tamino. It is tragic that we lose such a brave, young man.

    We need to move beyond tolerance to acceptance and eventually to valuing our differences. There are way too many folks out there willing to dehumanize their fellow humans.

  5. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

  6. Thanks for the ‘aside.’ In a way, though, it’s quite material to your more usual topics: slapping a label (such as ‘Muslim’) on someone and then assuming that you know everything important about who they are is not only morally questionable (at best), it’s intellectual laziness on a breath-taking scale–or it would be breath-taking, if we didn’t have so many real-world examples numbing our sense of proportion.

    An incident like this shocks us–or some of us, anyway–a little bit more awake again. Thanks again for passing on the tale. And, like Barton said…

  7. Not my regular handle too much background

    Tamino- you don’t need to post this- just a clarification “This!” is an internetism for “I approve”

  8. Martin Vermeer

    Being an educator myself makes me biased, but for me, attacking schools and students is particularly base. It’s an attack on our common future.

    Let’s also spend a thought for Malala Yousafzai, whose ‘sin’ was attending school while being a girl, and lucky to be alive.

    [Response: If there are any young people reading this:

    Do you want to know what a real hero is like? Follow that link.]

  9. He was a brave boy. He wasn’t a tyical Moslem, there is no such thing any more than there is a typical Christian or Jew. The suicide bomber was not typical either. We should absolutely avoid stereotyping people based on their religion.

    But there is some reason to have reservations about the teachings of Islam the religion. It has not managed the separation of the religious and the secular which has finally resolved the religious feuds of the West. The Shia-Sunni issue is uncomfortably similar to the denominational European Wars of Religion. These are issues which its going to have to resolve, but it shows no signs of knowing the way forward.

    And it remains true that the New Testament, with its instructions that he who is without sin should cast the first stone, the Sermon on the Mount, Paul’s writing on Charity, all that has a humanity and a compassion one looks in vain for in the Islamic sacred writings. We are still in the world of stoning the adulter there, 500 years later.

    Religions really do differ, and some really are more supportive of humane values and human freedom and personal development than others. There is no point pretending otherwise. You’d be hard put to find justification for jihad in the sayings of the Zen masters. But you don’t have to look far to find it in Islamic scripture.

    That’s not a reason for prejudice against Moslems. But its something to think about.

    [Response: I don’t agree with all you say, but it is well said.

    However, this post is not about comparing religions it’s about honoring a hero, and breaking down the anti-Moslem bigotry which I see in Americans, with my own eyes.

    So — let’s leave discussion of the issues you’ve raised for another time and place. That goes for everybody.]

    • Strictly a personal opinion… but I think there’s a lot to be said for ‘basic primate morality.’ Research has pointed to its sometime logical inconsistencies and general ‘fuzziness,’ but my sense is that it is also less susceptible to the really drastic distortions of morality that can occur via elaborately rationalized (quasi-)ethical systems.

      Most people ‘just know’ that planting bombs in public places is wrong, because many innocent people will be killed or maimed–and further, ‘know’ that this sort of behavior dishonors–radically!–any system of thought or ideology which rationalizes it, justifies it, or defends it. The persistence of some self-deluded persons in failing to understand this (mostly) self-evident truth is, IMO, a form of the psychological defense called ‘denial.’