Dr. Omid Safi, Professor and Chair of Islamic Studies at Duke, has a marvelous essay up over at OnBeing that should be shared widely. We don’t know a damn thing about the shooters other than they shot people. No, it’s not “canonizing” a cartoonist to feel bad that he died. Muslims have their own traditionas of political cartooning, and no, the faith does not require you to go about shooting people.
3) We do not know the political motivations of the shooters.
The healthy and spiritually sane thing to do is to pause, grieve, bury our dead, and reach out to one another. But we want explanations. We want to know why. We may even deserve to know why. Compounding the problem is that we have a cycle of 24-hour news, which has to be filled with content. It has to be filled with content even when we do not have facts available to us.
Some of the news coverage has been referring to the shooters as “Islamists.” If we define being an Islamist as someone who’s committed to establishing an Islamic state, there is no proof of that commitment on the part of the shooters. It seems more prudent to simply call them what we know they were: violent criminals.