Meet a Hero

Meet Debbe Magnusen, a suburban mother who decided to make a difference when she read an article about a baby who died after being abandoned by a dumpster in her community.  In order to help provide prenatal care for desperate mothers or help them to find adoptive families for their unwanted babies, she founded Project Cuddle.  In ten years since she started work from her kitchen table, she has helped save over 500 babies.[1]  Her work was recognized on the Oprah show.

Meet Candy Lightner.  In 1980, she founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which is now the one of the most successful victim activist organizations in the United States. With three million members and more than 600 chapters, MADD provides a wide range of victim assistance, advocacy and prevention activities. MADD trains volunteers to counsel victims of drunk driving accidents, accompany them through court proceedings, and speak to the media; it trains volunteers to serve as watchdogs for victims’ rights in courts, and has played a key role in awareness campaigns and passing state and federal bills related to the prevention of drunk driving.[2]

Meet Isaac Lerer.  He saved an elderly widower named Sam from neglect and abuse at the hands of his son, grandson and daughter-in-law.  Isaac periodically called Sam to check on him and, when he lost contact with him, accompanied the police when they broke into his son’s house where Sam lived.   The house was filthy and filled with junk and Sam, who was locked in a room on the first floor without any toilet facilities, was found covered with bruises and soiled from head to foot.  His son had abandoned the family and his daughter-in-law was forcing Sam to give her his pension and Social Security checks.   Isaac called an ambulance, and had Sam admitted to a nursing home.  He became Sam’s legal guardian and saw that his income went to keeping him comfortable at the nursing home until he died.[3]

The people you met above are modern day heroes — they saw a problem and did something about it.  We all admire initiative and compassionate problem-solving, and such opportunities exist all over the world.  However, many Muslims feel they do not participate enough in solving the world’s problems.  I beg to differ.  The average Muslim contributes in ways he is probably not aware of by adhering to the Islamic paradigm of proactivity.  Being proactive means taking positive measures to avoid the occurrence of a problem in the first place.  Here’s what I mean:

The average Muslim has saved the life of an unwanted baby.  Around the world, approximately 46 million abortions are performed each year.[4]  That is an average of approximately 126,000 abortions per day! The lifetime average is about 1 abortion per woman.[5]  Of the 857,475 legal induced abortions reported to the US Center for Disease Control for the year 2000, more than 80% were performed on unmarried women.[6]  By staying sexually abstinent until marriage, the average Muslim has prevented an unwanted pregnancy that could have led to abortion. Now add to this the other risks of sexual promiscuity, such as AIDS and other STDs.  There are 33 million  people living with AIDS worldwide, including 3 million children under the age of 15.[7]   Not only have they saved the lives of unwanted babies, they have also saved themselves, their spouses and their children from AIDS.

The average Muslim has also saved a life.  By avoiding alcohol, s/he has decreased the chances of killing someone in a drunk driving accident to zero.  In the United States, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 39 minutes.[8]  In addition to that, there are 21,634 alcohol-induced deaths each year and 12,928 deaths due to alcoholic liver disease.[9]  That’s over 48,000 alcohol-related deaths a year in one country.  Now imagine the number of other drug-related deaths – due to cocaine, heroine, meth, and the list goes on.  By avoiding the intoxicants and mind-altering drugs prohibited in Islam, the average Muslim has saved two lives – his own and someone else’s.

Not only that.  The average Muslim has saved an elder from abuse and abandonment.  The US National Center for Elder Abuse estimates that more than one million elderly Americans suffer from neglect, abandonment, isolation, or other forms of physical, psychological, or financial abuse every year.[10]  Abuse may be suffered at the hands of nursing home staff as well as their own children or other relatives. By treating parents kindly in their old age as ordered in the Quran, one of the most vulnerable sectors of society is protected.  In fact, by maintaining family relations and extending a helping hand (and pocketbook) to less fortunate members of the extended family, the average Muslim may also be protecting other vulnerable groups such as orphans.  According to UNICEF, there are nearly 44 million children living in orphanages worldwide,[11] more than double the entire population of Australia.[12]  This does not include street children, who often must turn to crime and prostitution to survive.  By keeping strong and charitable family ties, the average Muslim has saved someone from abuse, abandonment and desperation.

The statistics above show the magnitude of human suffering that can result from alcohol consumption, extramarital sex and family neglect.  And these are only the tip of the iceberg.  I believe that most people’s approach to problems is reactive – addressing a problem that has occurred, or addressing the symptoms of a problem that has occurred.  Sometimes we cover up a problem or don’t admit or even realize that it is a problem at all.

To be reactive isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there is something much better, and that is proactivity.  Although it makes sense that proactivity is the more valuable approach, it often seems less impressive because a crisis didn’t occur, a hero didn’t appear, and the day wasn’t saved on live TV.  Proactivity is more difficult and needs wisdom, forethought and restraint, qualities that not everyone has all the time.  But God has done a lot of the thinking for us, presenting us with a way of life that – with its proactive paradigm – spares us from crises that can devastate individuals and whole societies.  That way of life is Islam.  So be a hero – be a Muslim.

References (All sources accessed in August 2008).

[1] The Oprah Winfrey Show. Cheers to You!

[2] US Department of Justice.  Office of Justice Programs.

[3]Reaching out to Help Victims of Elder Abuse.

[6]  Abortion Surveillance, United States, 2000.

[7] UNAIDS. Report on the Global Aids Epidemic 2008.

[8] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “2006 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment – A Preview.” DOT 810 791.WashingtonDC:National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, July 2007.

[9]NationalCenter for Health Statistics.  Final data for 2005, tables 10, 23.

[10] National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.  “Facts and Stats on Elder Abuse.”

[11] UNAIDS and UNICEF. Children on the Brink 2002:  A Joint Report on Orphan Estimates and Program Strategies.

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1 Response to Meet a Hero

  1. Noelle Alyagout says:

    This is a very good article and I would like to add that just being a “Muslim” may not be enough but being “practicing ” one is what is meant here.

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