I can’t believe it’s been nine years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. I’m sure most of you can still remember where you were when you heard the news. I was listening to NPR on the way to buy a futon for my first apartment; we had gotten married just three months before and were moving into the apartment that day. We didn’t have our real bed yet but planned on using the futon as a couch once the bed arrived. I am very lucky nothing out of the ordinary happened on the road as I listened to the tragedy unfold; I was slowly losing awareness of what was happening in front of me as I tried to wrap my mind around the situation. My husband and I took separate cars to the store as I was planning to go to work afterward, so when we stepped out of our cars in the parking lot, he looked at me and said, “is this the end of the world?” It really seemed like it could be at that moment. I don’t recall being that scared in my entire life.
Time and life has dampened down the fear since then, although it is still a real undercurrent in daily life. For me, however, I am able to differentiate between terrorists and others who have only one similarity to those who would hurt us: a claim to the Muslim faith.
This is why I am so sad about the developments surrounding the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero. Just because there is an area reserved for prayer, the majority of the American people are up in arms about a “mosque” being built near “sacred ground.” Well, no one stopped the strip joints from moving in. I am more offended by that than a simple area for prayer. It’s not a terrorist training center. It’s not even officially a church of any kind. I am generally in favor of spaces in urban areas that provide a place for youth to go and participate in more productive activities than loitering and getting into trouble. I have no problem with that center being opened by a religion other than my own.
I am sure you have heard about the pastor who threatened to burn copies of the Koran on this ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This is the exact opposite of what I wish would happen on this anniversary. Why do people seem to think that showing prejudice and violence will stop or discourage people who seek to exact violence upon us? Have these people forgotten the phrase, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”? People who hate Americans will only hate us more if we insult their religion. It is amazingly ignorant and simplistic to target all members of a religion as “terrorists” when the core values of that religion are actually very similar to Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. A very few clerics advocate violence, while the majority urge peace. It is no different in any religion, or even in any given group of people; there are some radicals while a much greater number adhere to the core teachings of their religion which reject intolerance and violence, promoting peace and understanding.
In my ideal world, the anniversary of such horrific attacks would be full of examples of love and understanding among the people of the world. It would fly in the face of those few individuals who seek to destroy peace. Perhaps Pastor Terry Jones would benefit from reviewing Jesus’ actions toward those who sought to do violence against him and his followers instead of resorting to the same sort of blind hatred against which he is railing. I am glad that it appears that Pastor Jones has had a change of heart, but it still makes me ill that he would have even considered such a ridiculous show of ignorance. It gives me a glimmer of hope for the future of American-Muslim relations that it seems that most people were against his idea, however. Perhaps sometime in the near future people will gain a greater understanding of other religions and realize that just as Christians cannot all be painted with the same brush (I am not of the same cloth as Pat Robertson, for example), neither can Muslims.
Today and every day, let us strive for more understanding and love among all people. That is the best way to honor the lives that were taken too soon.