September 11, 2011 6 Comments
I don’t have an interesting story about what I was doing 10 years ago today. I wasn’t in New York or D.C. I didn’t have family or friends in harm’s way. I was 21 years old, driving a sandwich truck in Cleveland, gathering bits information from construction workers as I went from site to site.
The chaos and tragedy of the news I was hearing stood in stark contrast to the mundane nature of my life and that day, making it particularly surreal. The day stands as a vivid memory of a foggy experience. I imagine this is not an unusual recollection of September 11th.
10 years later we are all looking back on that day and it’s important not to oversimplify when reflecting on the role religion played. Like with most things, we see a division between the left and right—one insisting that Islam is not to blame for the attacks and the other holding all Muslims responsible.
They’re both wrong. At least on those two points. And, in other ways, both sides are right. Do we really need fall into one of these camps? Can we not say that, yes, the attacks were carried out because of Islam, and no, the Muslim family down the street are not terrorists?
Of course it would be unjust to hold all Muslims responsible and of course the blame should be laid with the disgusting perpetrators, but to suggest that the September 11th attacks were not religious or that Islam was not the driving force. And please, let’s avoid making false Scotsmen out of Osama Bin Laden and friends by claiming that they are/were not “real” Muslims.
Even President Obama, speaking to the nation after killing Bin Laden, sought to downplay Bin Laden’s religious motives, if not eliminate them. Could anything be more vile than to create a fiction about such an important event and attempt to sell it to the victims’ families just to avoid saying anything critical about any religion at any cost?
To say that Islam was not the driving force behind the attacks is to rationalize to the point of self-delusion. The Quran is filled with verses explicitly instructing Muslims to slay the unbelievers. Read them. Read them in context. See the mental gymnastics involved every time the mantra Islam is peace is uttered. Hearing what Bin Laden has said in countless interviews, fatwas, and grainy videos, can anyone really say that his actions do not stem directly from Islam and the Quran? The following are just a few kernels I picked out of the bag of Bin Laden references to God:
I’m fighting so I can die a martyr and go to heaven to meet God. Our fight now is against the Americans. (Wikiquote)
Hostility toward America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God. (PBS)
For this and other acts of aggression and injustice, we have declared jihad against the US, because in our religion it is our duty to make jihad so that God’s word is the one exalted to the heights. (PBS)
The flip-side is that some use the undeniable blood on hands of Islam as justification for bigotry.
It is not bigotry to speak ill of Islam, especially considering the harm it has done. It is not bigotry to be fearful of someone or something, whether it be justified fear or not. It is bigotry to discriminate against innocent individuals for simply belonging to a group, to deny those people the rights we all enjoy, to commit violence against them.
The controversy that arose following news that an Islamic Center was being planned to go up on privately owned property in the general vicinity of Ground Zero is an easy example of a blatant attempt to take away the rights of others. Do we really want to start ignoring the right of the people to freely exercise their religion? (I ask this mainly of the majority Christians that made up the outspoken opposition.)
Islam is the problem. Some Muslims are the problem. I see no reason to shy away from saying this, and no reason to exaggerate it.