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I usually avoid the obligatory “9/11” post. There are always scores of them and I don’t see the need to add to them. Last year, however, I did post on September 11th due to an article I’d read that I thought was worth mentioning. In light of recent events, I thought it was worth mentioning again this year, and probably even more relevant.

Considering all of the media attention currently being given to “Pastor” Terry Jones in Florida and his moronic pledge to burn a Qu’ran today, as well as the continuing debate regarding an Islamic community center in New York City, I decided to post this again this year.

A few words about these recent stories: First, I think Jones is a clown and a media whore, and I question whether he ever intended to burn anything. I think he’s gotten exactly what he wanted out of this stunt: attention. And as for the so-called “ground zero mosque” (which isn’t a mosque), I think the opposition to it is misguided at best. The heated opposition to other Muslims’ attempts to build new centers of worship around the country tells me this goes well beyond a location in New York. It appears that it has much more to do with a conflation of everyday Muslims (and American Muslims at that) with Al-Qaeda and/or an opposition to the practice of Islam in this country in general.

On The Daily Show recently, correspondent John Oliver said (in jest, of course) that people are right to oppose the center in New York, because “Islam, like every religion, has to be responsible for its biggest assholes”. As a Christian, I don’t want to be held responsible for the idiot extremists who do evil in the name of Christ. Muslims shouldn’t be required to do so, either. But too many Americans see all Muslims as potential terrorists and, therefore, enemies.

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
Thomas Paine

In this country, I would hope we can do better than this. Time will tell. Here’s what I wrote a year ago today (with a couple of edits.) It’s not your typical “9/11” remembrance post, but it was on my mind this time last year, and has been on it again in recent weeks, leading up to another anniversary.

A different perspective

I don’t usually post a “September 11” post, but I just read an article and wanted to share it.

The article is from the New York Times, titled Explaining 9/11 to a Muslim Child by Moina Noor. In it she shares her thoughts and feelings, as a Muslim living in the northeastern U.S., on attempting to answer the question her eight-year-old son Bilal asked: “Mom, what happened on 9/11?”

The demonization of Muslims in this country has been astonishing over the last eight years. Noor writes about her attempts to explain to others that “we are just like you” and “Islam is peaceful.” I suspect it often fell on deaf ears. I’ve heard and read plenty from those who see all Muslims painted with the same brush as Osama Bin Laden and the 19 that boarded those planes in 2001. Many of them are Christians who, ironically, would distance themselves from extremists in our own camp such as Fred Phelps, Scott Roeder or Steven Anderson, and would vehemently object to being considered like-minded with these poor examples of Christ-likeness. For all of the talk that the Muslim world is full of hate, I’ve heard plenty of it from our own as well.

She writes about her own fears for her child, living in this country at this time:

Since 9/11, I’ve worried how Bilal would feel about his identity as a Muslim living in America. A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life appeared in 2007 stating that 35 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion about Islam. Could one of those 3 in 10 people be Bilal’s teacher or soccer coach?

Over the past eight years I’ve read about Muslims being deported and pulled off airplanes and mosques being vandalized. My sister, a former middle school teacher in Brooklyn, heard kids taunt a Muslim student on the playground, calling him a terrorist. And even though I fear the possibility of discrimination for Bilal, what I fear most of all is that the din of Islamophobia will rob my son of self-respect and confidence.

I’ve heard many express concern about Muslims living in America. I’ve not often heard them mention feeling any compassion for peaceful Muslims living here who are at least just as concerned about living among non-Muslim Americans. Certainly this is not an easy time to be an American Muslim.

When we moved into our house four years ago, someone visiting our home observed our neighbors, an Indian family, outside in their garden. They jokingly said, “hey, maybe you’re living next to terrorists.” It was a comment I ignored, although I shouldn’t have. Despite the facetious tone of the comment, I know that there was real distrust there. Everyone from “over there” – even if they’re from a country that is eighty percent Hindu, apparently – is to be regarded with suspicion.

September 11th will always have a prominent place in American history. It will always be a day of remembrance, as well it should, and the thoughts of those tragic events and the people involved will be with us forever. Hopefully, someday soon, the fear and cynicism with respect to our neighbors will not. All Christians are not the same. Neither are all Muslims.

I did try and answer Bilal’s question. I relayed the day’s events in broad cartoonish strokes: bad guys attack, buildings collapse. Don’t worry, I assured him, we’ll get the bad guys so they won’t do it again. As I looked at Bilal in the rear view mirror, I explained that good and bad exists in every group, even your own. I think he understands.

As should we all.


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