…a day to remember…
I almost feel as though I have to say something about 9/11/01 and the aftermath, though honestly I’m not sure what I can say that hasn’t already been said.
I was living in my first apartment in California, depressed and alone after getting laid off, struggling to find my way out of the depression. I got up around 8, I think and stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee and to the computer. My morning routine was to hit my email, then job sites, then Beliefnet.
By the time I got to Beliefnet, the world was buzzing about what was going on in NY. I turned on my television…and spent a big chunk of that day watching along with everyone else. I took my dog out to walk, and bumped into my Muslim neighbors who were terrified. We talked briefly and I, naively, assured them that no one would blame them for something like this.
After all, we don’t hold an entire religion to blame for the bad deeds of some of it’s members. If we did, Christianity would have been run out of the country for the abortion clinic bombs or any other such deeds committed by someone claiming some radical form of Christianity.
Good people, American citizens such as them, should have nothing to fear.
I was wrong. Over the course of the next months I watched them withdraw more and more. I saw their car get vandalized, the windows of their apartment painted red. I heard people talk about them as if they were the devil’s own weapons, sent into our midst to destroy us.
Eventually they moved from the complex. So did I. I lost touch with them. I had my own issues to deal with in regard to religion.
It’s been ten years now and here in my daily existence I see tolerance returning, but then I live in a pretty diverse, pretty liberal area. Online, it’s a different story. The vehemence of people, the unadulterated hatred pouring from otherwise normal people speaks of a lack of understanding, not just of the Muslim religion, but of our own constitution.
Thousands of people died that day in a horrific example of extremism. That was not Islam. That was Islam hijacked by those who would twist it and use it as a weapon, just as Christianity is hijacked and twisted and used as a weapon by those who would kill abortion doctors, or gays.
We, as a country which was founded on the principles of freedom…freedom of speech, freedom of religion, have no standing to declare that Islam is anethma. We can not deport them, unless they are here illegally.
What are we to do then, today on this anniversary of the worst tragedy our country has known?
I challenge you to put aside your prejudice, set aside your fear, take your anger off your shoulders and find someone who is Muslim. Offer him or her a smile, say hello. Ask about their family, their life, their faith and what it means to them. Offer to share a meal. Get to know the face of Islam in your own community.
Then decide if your former belief stands. Who knows, it might be the start of a friendship. You might even learn something about yourself.