It’s been a tough week for people of conscience. Americans are still reeling and protesting over the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York – decisions that have laid bare the truth about ugly racial fault lines that still scar the collective national soul. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the result of their investigation of the use of torture on terror suspects by CIA. Among the myriad morally reprehensible and information found in the report (rectal “feeding”, threatening sexual violence, forcing detainees to stand on broken legs for hours, take your pick), I was appalled to learn that the CIA paid more than $80 million dollars to the psychologists who developed the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program.
But where there is darkness, there is also light.
One of the most well-known verses of the Holy Quran is from the Chapter of Light (verse 35):
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. God guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.
It is easy to lament the presence of evil in our midst, to blame God for the injustice of the world. “If there’s a God, how can He let these things happen?” But the more complex and critical question for me is, how can we reflect God’s light in the world? Another well-known verse in the Quran tells the believers that “whoever has killed one life, it will be as if he has killed all of humanity, and whoever has saved one life, it will be as if he has saved all of humanity” (5:32).
Amidst the dark revelations of CIA torture, we have also seen sparks of light.
The psychologists and other medical professionals who participated in and enabled the torture of CIA detainees were publicly censured by renowned American surgeon and professor, Dr. Atul Gawande, who wrote that they’d abdicated their roles as the conscience of the military.
Time Magazine announced that their Person of the Year has been awarded to the medical warriors treating the victims and survivors of Ebola.
And medical students across the country participated in #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives, taking a principled stand against systemic racial violence.
In a world of darkness, I salute our medical warriors who shine their light up on light day in and day out. Thank you.