The Community’s Response to Khalil Wimes Death: The bottom Line
by Zerqa Abid
Khalil Wimes, a 6-year-old boy died due to parental abuse in Philly last March. His drug-addict parents starved him for three years. They would beat him with whatever they would find. They had him in a room that had nothing but a filthy, urine-wet mattress. After his death, doctors found his 29 pound body covered with a “sea of scars” and wounds. Full story here.
It’s been a year, but I still can’t get my head around the fact that this baby was suffering so much for so long and NOBODY around him DID ANYTHING to rescue him. The community has done nothing after his death to protect other kids either.
Some family members reported the details of prolonged abuse after his death. I want to ask them how could you see a little boy starved, repeatedly tortured, sleeping in a room on a wet, filthy mattress with no blanket, no pillow, nothing else in the room for months and years and do nothing about it. Really?? Your personal relationship with his cruel parents was more important to you than the life of that poor baby? What kind of human beings are you? What kind of hearts do you have?
Allah compares some hearts to rocks in the Holy Quran. “Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness… And Allah is not heedless of what you do” (2:74).
Both parents, Latiff Hadi and Tina Cuffie (A.K.A. Floyd and Tina Wimes) were charged with murder and they are in prison now awaiting trial. I wish they would have to live like Khalil did - starved, filthy and abused. US prisons are way too cozy for their inhumane crimes. If I did not believe in hell, I would have protested on their easy way out of their cruelty.
He was not my son. I never knew that he even existed until I heard about his death. I am still having hard time getting over it. It’s not about his death. Perhaps his death rescued him from the hell his parents made for him. I can’t get over the people who did nothing besides covering up of the crime. I can’t get over the fact that it’s been a year after his death and still nothing has been done to protect other children.
What is our communal response to Khalil’s death?
Since last April, I have talked to several leaders and everyday people within the Muslim community about saving other Khalils out there. We have talked about bringing a change to the community, but that change is not coming from nowhere. Unless and until the community members take some tangible actions to address child abuse, nothing is happening. I have learned during these talks and follow-up meetings that we are very busy in building buildings, in organizing conventions, in throwing iftaars and Eid parties, in celebrating our diversity, in reaching interfaith community, etc., etc., etc., hence we do not really have time and money to do anything about it.
I know most of this work is very important and I appreciate it to some level. I know rules and protocols and blah, blah, blah, but what is the bottom line?
The bottom line is that we are too busy in everything else but in taking care of our most vulnerable. The bottom line is that as a community, we have failed in keeping our priorities straight. As leaders, we have failed in providing our services to the most needy and oppressed within our community. As community members, we have failed to look after each other and to keep check and balances on our leaders. As family members, we have failed to protect our loved ones.
Ibn Umar reported a saying of the blessed Prophet: “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock… ” He also reported that his father, Umar Ibn al-Khattab, used to say: If a baby goat would die beside Euphrates, I will have fear that Allah would question Umar for that .” May Allah be pleased with them all.
For an entire year, I have been continuously thinking about Khalil in this context. What happens when the shepherds become the wolves? Who takes the place of shepherds then? Doesn’t it become the responsibility of the entire community to watch for those unfortunate sheep then?
I know we don’t have Umar ibn al Khattab to cry at Khalil’s death and to protect all other Khalils, but I wonder what is the share of responsibility of our leaders and imams in the contemporary Muslim American community. Some of us are national champions. Some of us are running our own fiefdoms in the name of mosques and Islamic organizations. Some of us are elderly of our families. As the beloved prophet said, each one of us is responsible over his/her flock. How are we going to answer to Allah for all those cries, tears, starved nights, scars and much more of all abused community members who happen to live under our domains, within our jurisdictions, in our family homes or in our neighborhoods?
I know my little angel, Khalil, was way precious than a baby goat. How come there was almost no outcry within Muslim community over his death? What about other abused kids out there who desperately need our help?
Through this blog, I am reaching each one of you. I ask you to join Project Sakinah’s campaign to stop and prevent child abuse within the Muslim community. We can always talk about the strategic details, but the very first step for each one of us is to take a pledge that we will do our best to stop this evil and to protect our loved ones from all kinds of family violence. If you sign this pledge now, you will be connected with me directly. Once we team up, we will be able to accomplish much more to address the issue.
May Allah SWT forgive us for our weaknesses and accept our good intentions and sincere efforts.
Please visit Project Sakinah’s website at http://projectsakinah.org/ProjectSakinah.aspx Project Sakinah is an effort to build the public will necessary to achieve lasting change in the attitudes and behaviors of Muslims around the issue of violence within families. Family violence is a global problem, one that many in the Muslim community have denied or minimized for too long. We’re working to change that – because oppression of others is simply not acceptable.