What a difference a decade can make!
I remember seeing a patient with a gangrenous foot a few hours after the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001, trying to convince him that an amputation would save his life. As the events of the terror attacks unfolded, I as an American Muslim felt torn and divided: The American in me felt angry, sad, and depressed (even though my anger and sadness would do no one any good) and the Muslim in me felt embarrassed, hurt, and molested (even though no formal connection of the terrorists with Islam had been established yet).
On the contrary, the news of bin Laden's death last night aroused a unified reaction: justice.
Or perhaps "justice" was at the pinnacle of many other emotions lurking beneath the surface.
What I am interested in knowing though, is the one-word reaction of my fellow American Muslim leaders as this is the moment for them to set the record straight. Ten years ago, many Muslim leaders were a bit calculated in their condemnation of the terror attacks (at least in the beginning). Their statements were littered with ifs, ands and buts. They were analyzing before empathizing, warning before mourning, and deflecting before reflecting.
What a God sent opportunity is this for them to redeem themselves!
How and when the same Muslim-American leaders (who rationalized 9/11) will redeem themselves is up to them. But 9/11/2001 changed me forever. Since then I became more intensely involved with helping Muslim-American youth to form a strong identity, both as an American and as a Muslim. I had the honor to serve as the president of MKA USA, the leading Muslim youth group in America, from 2006-10. And my message to the thousands of "Muslimericans" used to be clear: There should be no conflict between our allegiance to Quran and our allegiance to America.
So to the Muslim youth in America today, I say: let no one implant the seeds of confusion in your mind that bin Laden was a Muslim leader. To quote from last night's presidential address: "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims." Let no one implant the seeds of hatred in your mind by suggesting that our country is at war with Islam. Remember what our president said, "The United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam." And let no one implant the seeds of animosity in your mind that this was revenge and not justice. Here is a quick reminder of the Quranic teaching: "O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people's enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness... " (5:9)
And for me, this has been yet another moment of belief. Last night, where I renewed my belief in my country's resolve, I also renewed my belief in my God's promise: "And let not the disbelievers think that Our granting them respite is good for them; the result of Our granting them respite will only be that they will increase in sin; and they shall have an humiliating punishment." (3:179)
If Osama (someone who justifies killing innocent civilians in the name of God) is not a disbeliever of Islam's compassionate teachings, then who is? If thousands of innocent deaths at the hand of al Qaeda trained suicide bombers over the past decade is not increasing in sin, then what is? If the fact that your dead body is headed to the same country where you once committed a mass murder is not a humiliating punishment, then what is?
So yes, what a difference a decade can make. A decade ago I was convincing one person as to how amputating his diseased foot could save his life. Today I must embark on a journey to convince millions as to why amputating the putrid parts like bin Laden and his zealots could save Islam's life.
Wish me luck.
Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty member for religion/history at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County and a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org