St. Joseph News-Press
Sept. 11, 2011
It is still as vivid in my mind’s eye as it is in our nation’s collective memory: A decade ago, 19 psychotic men boarded planes and changed us. That morning, as I watched the news in horror, I prayed. I hoped a Muslim was not involved. I remembered back to 1995 when in the hours following the Oklahoma City bombing, phone lines at mosques across the country were jammed with vile messages from people who had simply assumed a Muslim had carried out the attack.
Muslim Americans across the nation feared backlash. This was because in the decades prior to Sept. 11, Muslims had simply lived under the cultural radar. They went about their lives, worked, shopped, raised families, bought homes, worshiped and made a life. Then, one national tragedy later, this diverse community was in the spotlight.
In the days and weeks following Sept. 11, Muslim-Americans like myself showed our loyalty to our country and to our faith. Nationwide, we donated blood, held vigils and offered up prayers for the victims.
But the door that opened our religion to greater societal dissection has swung both ways.
On the one hand, more non-Muslims have visited mosques like our facility in St. Joseph. More Americans are now familiar with their Muslim neighbor, and they have come to appreciate Islamic traditions such as the wearing of the Hijab head covering or fasting during the month of Ramadan.
However, the intense spotlight also has brought negativity. In the past decade, we have seen Quran burnings, anti-Sharia law bills introduced in state legislatures, opposition to mosque construction, and our religion put on trial-by-media almost daily by talk-radio stations and cable news channels.
It is no wonder then, 10 years after the attacks, the Pew Research Center reports Muslims today report greater instances of name-calling, threats, and harassment.
While we have declared again and again our zero tolerance for terrorists, it is important to remember American Muslims remain a needed partner in countering extremism. We refuse to allow people to conflate murderous terrorists with the entire religion. Our mosques have provided a community to guide Muslims who have fallen to the rhetoric of radicalism. We have strengthened our relationships with interfaith partners and we have forged new bonds with law enforcement. Our mosques are also becoming premier sites of American assimilation and community involvement.
And you will only see this grow. In the next decade, you will see a shift toward more professing Muslims getting involved with their communities. Our nation has not yet fully recovered from the pain inflicted by a handful of Islamic extremists, madmen who perverted the faith’s spiritual teachings to fit their own political ends. Yet on the 10th anniversary, the Muslim community in St. Joseph, which number less than 100 people, joins people of all faiths in condemning the horrific attack of Sept. 11. 2001.
We strongly condemn terrorism in any form. To be clear, we also strongly support the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution — namely democracy, pluralism and secularism.
Finally, we hope more area residents will take us up on our invitation to visit and tour our facility. Mosques remain misunderstood on the American landscape. There is a great opportunity for understanding here. We hope you will join us in helping to bridge this gap.
Ramadhan Washington is president of the Islamic Center of St. Joseph.
Source: The St. Joseph News-Press