Kayla Mueller did, in her short 26 years of life, what Americans are called upon to do. She acted against injustice. Mueller acted in India on behalf of Tibetan refugees, in Palestine against colonization and occupation, in Israel on behalf of African refugees and then finally she went to Aleppo, Syria where she hoped to be able to help ease the suffering of the Syrian people.
She lived a life of promise.
Today, this Friday the 13th, I find Kayla Mueller, barely days dead — absent.
Absent from the news — absent from America.
Many Americans have short attention spans. Busy pursuing their own family and personal interests many often have opinions framed by Main Stream Media (MSM) and they often define American interests in very narrow, parochial terms.
Today, as a narrative unfolds of the tragedy that has befallen three young American Muslims and their families in Chapel Hill, NC, and as local and federal authorities try to discern what evil inspired their assassin, we’ve been too quick to allow Kayla Mueller to be buried.
It’s reported that Daesh (ISIS / ISIL) sent Mueller’s family pictures of her body wrapped in a white burial shroud, presumably ready to be anonymously buried in an unmarked grave somewhere amidst the Mesopotamian sands, somewhere among the many thousands of other victims of Daesh’s cruelty, somewhere near the other hostages murdered by Daesh.
If we remember — how can we ever forget — the days that followed the cruel beheadings of New Hampshire’s James Foley, Steven Satloff and other hostages by Daesh we recall that there was, rightly, outrage and national mourning, even calls for retribution and revenge over their deaths.
After Daesh claimed that Mueller had died in an air strike on Raqqa, Syria where she had been held prisoner (under circumstances still unverified) there was, rightly, an international outpouring of sympathy and tribute, expressing to her family appreciation for her courage, faith, activism and unbowed commitment to social justice — and for their loss.
Public tributes continued until many of those offering tribute realized that her commitment to social justice had extended equally to the Palestinian people of occupied East Jerusalem, Bil’in and Hebron.
For some Americans, for some of Israelis, Mueller’s work in solidarity with the Palestinians immediately made her unworthy of sympathy.
Lee Kaplan wrote an opinion column in the Israeli “Arutz Sheva” that asserted that Mueller’s death was “another Rachel Corrie propaganda story in the making, and the western media is falling for it again, or embracing it on purpose.”
American Rachel Corrie was another pro-Palestinian activist who volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). In 2003, in Gaza, Corrie was run over and killed, under suspicious circumstances, by an Israeli army bulldozer while trying to save a Palestinian home from demolition.
“As an ISM activist [Kayla] was a tool for the worldwide jihad,” Kaplan wrote and “she paid the ultimate price for that choice.”
From American blogger Debbie Schlussel came an entry entitled: “Dead ISIS Hostage Was Jew-Hating, Anti-Israel Bitch.”
Perhaps intimidated by pro-Israel activists who didn’t want Mueller’s ISM, pro-Palestinian activism to be celebrated as part of her life-experience, or perhaps out of ignorance of the value of a life so tragically ended, Kayla Mueller presence in our lives is in danger of being diminished.
We can’t allow Mueller’s activism to be ignored. As Palestinian Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the popular committee in Bil’in where Kayla joined protests, said, “Kayla came to Palestine to stand in solidarity with us. She marched with us and faced the military that occupies our land side by side with us. For this, Kayla will always live in our hearts. We send all our support to her family and will continue, like Kayla, to work against injustice wherever it is.”
From captivity, in a letter she had smuggled out to her parents she wrote, “I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”
Frantz Fanon wrote that “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
Let’s fully honor American Kayla Mueller who, out of relative obscurity, discovered her mission.
I’ll end my tribute, as Kayla Mueller once ended her blog:
“Ask me questions and ask yourself questions but most importantly, question the answers.”
Question the answers!
Postscript: There is still much to learn about what happened in Chapel Hill and I hope soon to write about these remarkable young people: about their faith in God and faith in America.
Today let’s quietly pray together, let’s together extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, murdered in Chapel Hill NC.
Today let’ s quietly pray together, let’s together extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of Kayla Mueller, murdered in Raqqa, Syria at the hand of Daesh.
Today let us celebrate these four young lives, taken from us far too soon; whose freedom, faith and enthusiasm embody all the promise of America.
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.