by Saulat Pervez
We should never forget the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but we must learn to differentiate between the extremist perpetrators and their billion-strong, peace-loving counterparts.
Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything.
We who had led carefree lives centering on our individual routines, blissfully uninformed about international events or the politics of far-flung places, were caught unawares. A stunned nation watched with horror, filled with hurt and anger. Grief engulfed our hearts, questions pricked our minds, and suspicions lurked in our thoughts. That fateful day jolted our collective consciousness, and nothing was the same again.
Indeed, this was true for Americans as a whole — which included the minority of Muslims that call the United States their home. Their angst intensified as fears of backlash turned into reality in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: mosques were vandalized, innocent lives were lost, and individuals were harassed. Even so, there was an outpouring of support among neighbors, colleagues, and peers. Local people of different faiths offered to guard mosques, get groceries for Muslims, and sought to understand the political motivations of the terrorists. In the vastness of the land, however, these were a brave minority, and remain so.
As the anguished nation sought revenge, a clear divide between “them” and “us” began to emerge, splattering our shared psyche with phrases such as “holy war” and “Muslim militancy” on the one hand, and “homeland security” and “war on terror” on the other. In the process, few on either side recognized Islam as one of the victims: its peaceful message ravaged, its teachings grossly misinterpreted, and its virtues vilified.
Today, nearly 15 years later, the perception of Islam in America continues to be overshadowed by the events of 9/11, as apparent in right-wing rhetoric, the anti-Shariah campaign, and the various obstacles different mosques face. On this anniversary of 9/11, we must remember that people of all religions, ethnicities, and races died side-by-side on that tragic day. The perpetrators of this heinous event, though they professed to be Muslim, were driven by their own warped agendas that have nothing to do with the purity of Islam.
As details of the deceased emerged, it became clear that dozens of Muslims also had died in the World Trade Center attacks. These included restaurant employees, executives, managers, traders, technicians, airplane passengers, and first responders. Muslims were victims too! They had suffered alongside their fellow Americans, and some even heroically had given their lives while trying to rescue others.
They included Abdu Malahi, an audio-visual manager at Marriott World Trade Center, who personally guided many guests to safety before dying himself. Several survivor reports praise his selflessness and heroism. Tariq Amanullah went to work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and simply never returned. He often is identified as an assistant vice president of Fiduciary Trust. However, few people know that Amanullah, a Muslim by faith, was also one of the founding members of Why Islam, a Somerset County-headquartered nonprofit of Islamic Circle of North America dedicated to providing accurate information about Islam.
Alas, due to the climate of fear and distrust, some of these victims were suspected to be perpetrators before their names were formally cleared. Rahma Salie was on board American Flight 11, along with her husband, when it crashed into one of the Word Trade Center towers. She was seven months pregnant. Afterward, authorities investigated her as a possible terrorist accomplice and placed members of her family on a no-fly list, which almost prevented them from attending her memorial service.
“My son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 23, was a first responder, an NYPD cadet who was killed that day at WTC while trying to save lives,” wrote Talat Hamdani. “In the days following, his noble actions and sacrifice were turned into a story of speculations based on his Muslim faith. It was not until he was mentioned by name as a hero in the PATRIOT Act that his reputation was redeemed. Many Muslim Americans died that day and the audacity of some to blame all Muslims for the actions of foreign terrorists is hurtful.”
We should never forget the events of 9/11, but we must learn to differentiate between the perpetrators and their professed faith, between a few extremists and their billion-strong peace-loving counterparts. Only then will we do justice to the victims of 9/11 — all of them.
Saulat Pervez is a volunteer for Why Islam, a nonprofit organization of Islamic Circle of North America, which is dedicated to providing accurate information about Islam, dispelling common misconceptions and promoting peaceful co-existence.
Article Courtesy: My Central Jersey