I received some terrible news today. A few days ago a boy, well, a young man now, killed a man during an attempted robbery. He’d communicated with the man on Craigslist and arranged to meet and make a deal. But he had different intentions. He walked in with a knife. The man had a gun. Somehow the young man got hold of the gun and committed the murder.
I knew this young man when he was a boy. He was a classmate of one of my sons, and I taught him on occasion when the regular teacher wasn’t available. I believe he came over to our house a time or two. I’ve known his mother for about twenty years. She’s a good woman and a practicing Muslimah. The boy attended an Islamic school at least through sixth grade.
It’s been several hours since I first learned of the tragedy but I’m still digesting the news. The boy I knew was well-mannered. His parents are devout Muslims. He learned about Islam when he was young. And yet he committed this terrible crime when he was just a few months short of his high school graduation. What would make him do something like this?
I haven’t seen this boy in several years and I’m sure he’s changed during that time. Only Allah knows what was in his heart, what motivated him. But in spite of his many opportunities, his many advantages, I do know that one thing was lacking.
What he lacked was a strong Muslim community. The community split nearly 16 years ago, when this young man was just a toddler, and it has never been repaired. Instead of taking care of the youth, instead of guiding the young men, I witnessed the men in that community fighting for power and influence, backbiting and spreading rumors.
I tried, once, to start a scouting program for the boys. I contacted the local Boy Scouts and was able to get a Cub Scout troop off the ground. We received a grant and the program had great promise. I tried to get one of the men to take responsibility for the older boys, but I had no takers.
Then we left. We moved to a different city in a different state. I left the materials and the contact information with one of the men, someone who promised he would continue what I had started. But months later I was receiving emails from the liaison at the Boy Scout headquarters telling me no one in the community had contacted him. The program died.
In the last several years, that community has lost a few young men. Some were murdered. One was into drugs. Now one is a murderer. Sometimes I feel torn between relief that I got my sons safely out of there and guilt that I didn’t stay to help.
I kept asking the men for help. They said there wasn’t enough money. They said they didn’t have the time. They were too busy doing whatever they were doing, taking care of their own business, too busy to take care of the young men.
Some of them are probably relieved that it wasn’t their sons. Their sons haven’t been murdered. Their sons haven’t committed any crimes. As long as their sons are safe and successful, they’ve done their jobs.
Or have they?
If the men in the community won’t show the boys how to become men, who will?