Making Sense of the Aurora Theater Shooting

By Nadia B. Ahmad

The Ramadan hilal saved me.


People arrive early on Sunday morning to pay respects at a memorial to those killed in the July 20 theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado July 29, 2012. The suspect in the case is expected to make his second court appearance tomorrow July 30, 2012.

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Had the local masjid not declared the first night of the sacred Muslim month of Ramadan on July 19th, I likely would have attended the midnight showing of The Dark Knight rises at Aurora’s Century 16 theater. When I woke up the next morning to hear the news of the fateful shooting which left 12 dead, my immediate thoughts were if anyone I had known had been hurt. Scanning Facebook I realized the others I had known to go elected against it. Later my sisters on the East Coast frantically began texting me thinking I may have gone to the theater because I had not answered my phone. I texted back a single response to their nearly dozen text messages, “I’m alive.”

For me the issue of the Aurora theater shooting is less about the disparate media response, the treatment of the suspect, gun control, or the death penalty, but more about how my seemingly sleepy suburb was turned upside-down overnight. I cannot imagine how the Aurora police officers and paramedics frantically triaged the victims and transported them in squad cars. The violence and the sheer gruesomeness of the killing left a horrible feeling in me.

Today the yellow police tape still cordons off the movie theater as a reminder of the unthinkable. Nothing aside from the police tape and makeshift memorial across the street would alert an unknown passerby to the carnage that transpired inside the movie theater. For the families and friends of the lives cut short, their grief must be unbearable and continue for the rest of their lives.

The word, “senseless,” was repeatedly used to describe the Aurora theater shooting. Nothing of this sort could be fully explained, but was it entirely “senseless?” According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, senseless means “destitute of, deficient in, or contrary to sense: as unconscious, foolish, stupid, and meaningless.” Yes, the shooting was all of those things, but there was another issue at play which became apparent to me later in Ramadan.

Toward the end of Ramadan I listened to a talk at the masjid which helped me make sense of this senseless tragedy. The speaker mentioned how killings without any apparent motive would increase in the end of time as a part of the human condition. He further related the story of the sons of Prophet Adam and how one brother killed another. Considered the first murderer in many religious traditions, Cain, the son of Prophet Adam, is said to carry a portion of the burden of each subsequent murder. In the Quran, Abel told his brother Cain upon learning of Cain’s intent to kill him, “Even if you stretch out your hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against you to kill you, lo! I fear God, the Lord of the Worlds.” (Al-Maeda: 28).

Homicide is inextricably embedded in human culture. Whether it results from a disease of the mind or from premeditated thought, homicide is the basest of human acts. Only when the desire to live, let live, and love trumps the inclination to destroy, hate, and kill can we avoid tragedies such as the Aurora theater shooting.


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