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Talat Hamdani Headshot

A Decade After: It's Time to Reset Our Moral Compass

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September 11, 2001, the day I lost my son, Salman Hamdani, I lost everything. I lost my first-born child, and all my dreams for his future were lost with him. I lost my country and my identity. I lost the 22 years of grueling hard work to establish my family as Americans. I was stripped of hope and left only with my Muslim identity. The American dream disintegrated with the ashes of the North Tower, where Salman's remains were found in 34 pieces. And America changed forever. Two years later, my husband died of cancer, having lost the will to live.

Suspicion was cast on the selfless, heroic actions of my son, who responded to the call of duty voluntarily to rescue his fellow citizens because of his Muslim faith and his loving heart. Ten years later, anti-Muslim sentiment has permeated and saturated the rhetoric of the masses, as was evident from the ninth anniversary and the furor over the Park51 issue. Bigotry and malice reared its ugly Medusa-like head, inciting violence that culminated in the stabbing of a Muslim taxi driver in Manhattan. Politicians exploited the issue for their own personal agendas.

The egregious Patriot Act was passed hurriedly after 9/11, thus deeply wounding the rule of law nationally. Fear gripped the nation and divided us once again into "us vs. them," them being the American Muslims, Arab-Americans and South Asians. Some politicians did not hesitate to say that US Marines "will gladly help American Muslims to go meet their God." Another congressman, is bent on holding the Muslim community responsible for the acts of foreign terrorists.

As a nation, we have lost all moral standing in the world. If the shame of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah was not enough to disgrace us, the existence of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay testifies to how much we respect human rights and our own American core values of liberty and justice for all. Between the Patriot Act and Gitmo there are no boundaries of justice and fairness that we, as a supposedly law-abiding nation, have not violated.

After 9/11, America embarked on a path of revenge and vendetta. We shed the blood of thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis. Our gallant troops died in thousands avenging Salman's death and the deaths of every precious soul we lost on 9/11. Who benefited? What did we gain? A decade of wars and destruction has proven that this was the wrong course.

It is time we change the course and give humanity a chance to redeem itself. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a symbolic gesture of what the world is expecting of the US.

On the international front, we must end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and bring our troops home. On the national front, we must close down the Guantánamo Bay detention center, repeal the Patriot Act, restore the rule of law and safeguard the civil liberties of American Muslims, Arab-Americans and South Asians.

The Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution, but two centuries later we are metamorphosing into a society racked with racism and injustice, a society that preaches antagonism against people from a culture we don't understand. The American Muslims have carried the 9/11 cross for a decade, and we refuse to carry it any more.

Nearly three thousand Americans were killed on 9/11/01. They were casualties of 9/11 simply for being Americans, casualties of hatred and intolerance. Now we as a nation have adopted the same mind-set. The first responders who rushed to rescue them transcended the barriers of race, faith and ethnicity. As a tribute to all those that died that day, we need to transcend these barriers as well and reset our moral compass. We need to redeem the dignity of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.