Can’t Trust A Big Beard And A Smile?

Can’t Trust A Big Beard And A Smile?

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

It was a most distressing piece of news. A Muslim father and son, both U.S. citizens, were arrested for lying to FBI investigators about their involvement with an Al Qaeda training camp. They lived in Lodi, California, a small town outside of Sacramento, and, unfortunately, these two Muslims put Lodi on the map. Just like with the case of Ahmed Abu Ali, I am deeply disturbed about the allegations of the case, which everyone should read for themselves.

Now, it is important to keep some facts in mind: the affidavit released outlined that Hamid Hayat and his father were arrested for lying to the FBI, and not on terrorism charges. There is no evidence that Hamid Hayat had an actual plot to kill Americans, and the investigation is still ongoing. Still, I do not dismiss or downplay the seriousness of any of Hayat’s alleged activities: from lying to the FBI to receiving training at an Al Qaeda camp. Frankly, I applaud the FBI for taking these steps, under the law, and moving to arrest the two men based upon the statements they made. What if Hamid Hayat was in the final stages of planning an attack? What if he was going to a local hospital to carry out his “jihad against the infidels” today? The authorities, charged with protecting our lives, did the right thing, and the men should get their day in court.

And I must say that I am outraged that an American Muslim would train at an Al Qaeda camp and come back to his own country allegedly intending on attacking his own people. Attacking his own people! Now, some may see my outrage as incredibly naive. For some, this sort of action is par for the course as far as Muslims goes. In fact, this latest piece of news may lead many in America to distrust every single American Muslim, all 6-7 million of them. As far as some are concerned, you can never trust a big beard and a smile.

Let us hold on, just a little bit. These were two men among the millions of American Muslims. Yes, two imams were arrested on immigration violations in connection with the case, and there may be more arrests and charges filed in the coming days and weeks, but still, it is quite unfair to paint all Muslims with the same broad brush of terrorism and violence. Yet, that is exactly what many in America do. They point out the actions of the violent fringe and conclude, “You see, all Muslims are monstrous and violent fanatics!” It is completely illogical.

And you would think these fellow Americans would know better, given our own experiences in the war on terror. Is it fair for Muslims the world over to see all Americans as sex-crazed sadists because of what happened at Abu Ghraib prison? No. Is it fair for Muslims the world over to label all Americans as having total disregard for everything sacred because of the mishandling of the Qur’an at Guantanamo Bay? No. Is it fair for Muslims the world over to conclude that all Americans hate Islam and Muslims because of the actions by interrogators at Gitmo? No.

Then why is the same logic applied to Muslims? Yes, there are violent fanatics in the Muslim World who would stop at nothing to kill Americans. They must be stopped and fought against tooth and nail. But, that does not mean all Muslims are violent fanatics. That does not mean that you can’t trust every Muslim because of what the Hayat’s allegedly did. That does not mean that all Muslims are the enemy of America and all Americans. Terrorists and criminals come in all stripes and flavors. All Muslims - just like all Americans - can never be judged by the sins of their few. They just can’t. 

Originally published on Dr. Hassaballa’s website at and reprinted in TAM with permission of the author.