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What goes through our hearts at the sight of a murderer?

As is the case with a lot of other people, this morning I watch in stunned silence as James E. Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora, CO movie theater murders (to call it a tragedy is to somehow dull the brutal reality of what this was) was arraigned in the court.

Holmes sat there next to his assigned lawyer.   He had his hair in an odd orange/reddish dye, and had told the police that he was the "Joker" character from the previous Batman movies.    His demeanor was one of resignation, perhaps a touch of remorse, but no emotional reaction one way or another.

It is the month of Ramadan, for Muslims a time of keeping vigil over own hearts and emotions, even as we now hold vigil over the victims in Colorado, in Myanmar, in Syria, and in so many other places.  

As I kept watching my own emotions come and go, I wondered:  
what am I experiencing as I see the first live images of this killer?
What goes through my own heart?

Is it anger?    “Who could you take the lives of so many?”
Is it pity?   “How could you have turned out like this?”
Is it compassion?  “I reach out to you in compassion, knowing that the suffering you have brought to so many is mirrored in the suffering you yourself have been going through, and will be going through.”

I wonder if there is a religious zero-sum response in having my heart and prayers go out to the victims of this crime, and have compassion left for this murderer.

I wonder what goes through the hearts of the families and loved ones of the dozens he has killed and injured, as they watch him.

I wonder if perhaps the best thing that we can do is to simply reach out in compassion to others, as the President did in visiting the victims of this shooting.

“President Barack Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital July 22, 2012.  (Pete Souza/The White House)”

I have no grand answers as to what we should do, only know that I do not want to perpetuate this violence anymore.

I wonder...


As I look at James, I wonder if I see a murderer.
I wonder if I see a broken down human being who committed an unspeakable act.
I wonder if I can still see him as a human.

I wonder if he saw those whom he killed as human.
I wonder if the families of those whom he killed and injured can see him as a human.

I wonder...
This is going to be a hard Ramadan.
It has already been.


Tags: aurora, aurora, colo., batman, colorado shooting, james e. holmes, james holmes, joker, movie theater, obama


  1. I keep seeing people quote this nonsense:

    “He had his hair in an orange/reddish dye, to imitate the deranged Joker character in the Batman movie”

    There is no Joker in THIS movie (he was in the last one); and more importantly: The Joker has GREEN hair NOT red/orange hair ... yet people keep saying that the psycho killer in Colorado was trying to look like the Joker rather than Bozo or, you know, Ronald McDonald.

    I honestly do not understand how “journalists” can be taken seriously when they cannot be bothered to do a simple Google Image Search or just ask any handy 8 year old what Batman’s Arch Enemy looks like ...

    If you can’t fact check something so trivial (and culturally ubiquitous) as that why on earth would I trust you to inform me about things that ARE NOT common knowledge to 99% of the movie going public?

  2. @Heath: You may have misread this article. It reads: “He had his hair in an odd orange/reddish dye, and had told the police that he was the “Joker” character from the previous Batman movies.” This indicates that Holmes himself told the police that he sees himself as the Joker. At the same time, it is not clear to me whether Holmes feels his hair color is related to him seeing himself as the Joker.

    To get back to the topic of the article, I applaud Mr. Safi for looking at this topic from this angle. It is very important for us, as religious people - especially at Ramadan - to see how well we can put our religious teachings to practice when in comes to murderers, particularly. It isn’t easy, and I appreciate Mr. Safi bringing that to our attention as we become more familiar with Mr. Holmes in the upcoming weeks.

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