It has been 8 years since 9/11 and Muslims have been dealing with the reverberations of that event ever since. Anyone who can remember that day, remembers what they were doing when they heard the news. I remember being at work and having my boss tell me to be careful because not everyone will understand that it is not my fault. That day was a turning point for a lot of things, but most importantly the world community took a more active interest in Islam.
Since 9/11, Muslims have had to be much more vocal about the message of peace in Islam in order to counter the voices–both non-Muslim and Muslim–that say otherwise. Ignorance about Islam and Muslims was prevalent–and to some degree remains so–and it fueled much of the misunderstandings. The events of that day reinforced the primary stereotype that overshadows and influences people’s understanding about Islam: that it condones violence, even encourages it. For this reason, I wanted to talk about the issue of violence and terrorism in my understanding of Islam.
Islam, for me and many, does in fact mean having a sense of peace: peace with God, peace with other human beings, and peace with God’s creation. When Muslim’s call to mind the Prophet Muhammad’s demeanor they often remember stories of his empathy, kindness, gentleness, and civility in the face of tremendous struggle. In one story, early on in his message, the Prophet Muhammad had a neighbor who would come every day and dump garbage in front of his home. When the Prophet Muhammad did not find the garbage on his doorstep one day, he went and asked about his neighbor. Upon finding out that his neighbor was ill, he went and visited him. He still recognized the humanity of his neighbor and knew that returning the wrong was not the way to deal with the problem. Another revealing story about the Prophet’s kindness and forgiveness was when the Muslims had gained victory and could return to Mecca after many years. The Prophet said that whoever laid down their arms was safe and guaranteed amnesty. He did not take revenge. He did not seek out enemies. He simply wanted to restore peace in the society. Doesn’t this represent a different image of a Muslim then the 9/11 hijackers?
I am not saying that there are not Muslims who themselves have forgotten the Prophet Muhammad’s message and claim that their actions are sanctioned by Islam. What I am saying is that unlike what many believe (including some Muslims), Islam does promote and encourage peace and this can be seen in the stories of the Prophet and in the guidelines for appropriate engagement in the Qur’an. Transgressing boundaries, instilling fear in a people, not respecting the clear injunctions against killing women and children, are not in line with Islam. As a Muslim American, I was saddened for the loss of life in September 2001, but I know that my faith was not the same as the one that supposedly condoned the terrorist attacks.
Can a faith be blamed for the actions of a few? Were you motivated to learn more about Islam after the attacks? How do you think people’s attitudes toward Islam and Muslims have changed over the last eight years? What do you still feel you would like to know more about? Please share your comments.