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Ghazala Salam Headshot

Honoring the Memory of 9/11 by Honoring Humanity

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As the 11th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I have been reflecting on the hundreds of stories we have heard over the decade from the impact of that devastating day.

I vividly remember the day, as I had a houseful of guests set to return to India on 9/11/01. Needless to say, none of my guests flew anywhere until a couple of weeks later. I could not believe that terrorists had attacked our country. Until that day, like most Americans, I had not given much thought to terrorists or terrorism for that matter. As a Muslim woman of faith, a practitioner of Islam, I knew then and I know now that terrorists have nothing to do with God and Islam. Everything they have done and continue to do is against the teachings of Islam. I know this because I am a Muslim.

As the nation mourns for the thousands of victims who perished on 9/11 and prays with hope for all the survivors, I am compelled to also mourn for the loss of humanity as the terrorists slowly but surely succeed in sowing the seeds of discord and malice within our nation and around the world. The criminals that day not only hijacked planes, caused unimaginable devastation, destruction of property and loss of precious life, but they also hijacked the spirit of Islam, which defines peace, justice and humanity and turned it into an anthem for violence, conflict, hatred and injustice.

In fact, terrorists are motivated and mobilized by their own egotistical ideology and political agenda not by Islam or Muslims. They hate everyone who is not like them because their beliefs don't align with everyone else's way of thinking, values, religiosity, behavior and expectations. Within the mind and heart of a terrorist reside bigotry, a hidden world of hate and an ego that presumes to be righteous at the expense of others.

They may call themselves Muslims, but their actions are at variance and conflict with the fundamental norms of the Islamic way of life which is to create social order with unity, justice, and goodwill toward all of mankind. Simply uttering the Merciful name of God before committing suicide and murder cannot turn criminals into martyrs. These criminals have done nothing but marginalize the Muslim community at large. A criminal and a believer can never be the same; I know this because I am a believer.

Ironically, today we are witnessing the renewal of the same hate-ideology, one based on profiling and persecuting all Muslims by insidiously linking us to the crimes of the terrorists. Muslims are the new targets of hate, discrimination and prejudice. Just look at the anti-Muslim violence occurring in the past month of August 2012 alone:
  1. On Aug. 3, four teenagers threw lemons at a local mosque, striking one congregant. Hayward, Calif.
  2. On Aug. 5, a suspect was filmed tearing a piece off a mosque sign after head-butting it.North Smithfield, R.I.
  3. On Aug 5, gunman kill's six people, likely motivated by a belief that the victims were Muslim. Oak Creek, Wisc.
  4. On Aug. 6, one month after a previous arson attempt, a local mosque was burned to the ground. Joplin, Mo.
  5. On Aug. 7, two women were seen throwing three pig legs onto the parking lot of a proposed Islamic center. Ontario, Calif.
  6. On Aug. 10, two air rifle shots were fired at the on-duty security guard of the local mosque. Morton Grove, Ill.
  7. On Aug. 12, paint balls were fired at a local mosque. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  8. On Aug. 12, a 7-Up bottle filled with acid was thrown at a mosque where schoolchildren were attending Ramadan prayers. Lombard, Ill.
  9. On Aug. 13, a Christian Arab church was vandalized, the same Middle Eastern congregation has been racially profiled in the past. Dearborn, Mich.
  10. On Aug. 15, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a Muslim home in the middle of the night. Panama City, Fla.
  11. On Aug. 16, several tomb stones at a Muslim cemetery were vandalized with hate graffiti. Evergreen Park, Ill.
Seeing the progression of hate-crimes against Muslims or anyone that fits the "profile" is alarming. This anti-Islamic movement gives us a glimpse into human ethics and morals of how humans are completely capable of actions that rival the evil deeds they themselves condemn others off. The irony is highly disturbing and it should be noted that while the terrorist may have provoked us with their atrocities they did not force us to lose sight of our humanity. As Americans we are better then that, I know this because I am an American.

Logic compels me to say to my fellow Americans: Don't let the terrorists win. Don't judge one based on another's ideology, and don't turn us into a nation that is addicted to hate. Don't be influenced by the same omnipotent righteous desire to judge and punish others without the fear of ever being wrong. Don't subject innocent people to humiliation and degradation. Don't allow your sense of loss and violation to turn into cruelty and injustice for others. Don't let your negative impressions of terrorists stigmatize humanity.

No doubt terrorists have inflicted pain and injustice upon our great nation and the world, but resenting the entire population of Islam will not punish the perpetrators. Don't become the reflection of terrorists and terrorism, lest you should become more wrong and less humane in the process of becoming more right in the world of hate.