Sept. 11: the date we and our generation will never forget. To the families and friends of the victims, every year as the date approaches, so does the unforgettable memory of the loss of their loved ones. We all will remember where we were when we learned of the tragic flights. I was a freshman walking mere blocks from the White House when I saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon far in the morning sky. The city where I was born – the city that I called home – was under attack.
Within hours of the dreadful event, military humvees were stationed at many intersections in the District – an intimidating sight. By the next day I had heard stories of backlash against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, but surprisingly the population of Washington was most accommodating. Fellow students and faculty offered their support to my friends and me, should the occasion ever arise. I was proud to be in a town that was inhabited by such understanding people.
In the months to follow, however, American sentiment to the Muslim faith and its followers changed. Thousands of American Muslims were jailed indefinitely on charges of “secret evidence.” While I may not be able to vouch for even a single one of them, I would be remiss to not draw parallels to the Japanese-American internment camps. Legalities aside, the American public’s mentality to the Muslims also would change, a change that was spearheaded by “Islamic experts.” Most of the “experts” did not even know how to pronounce the word Quran, let alone interpret the Islamic holy book, and almost none of them were Muslim themselves. I would never take expert advice on my heart unless I were speaking to a cardiologist. How then, can one take expert advice from an individual with an apparent vendetta against Islam, on the subject of Islam?
I do not claim to be an expert in Islam or any religion, despite attending Catholic schools and earning a B.A. in Religion. I do claim to be a Muslim. While I can say with overwhelming confidence that nowhere in our religion is there any provision to kill innocent humans, there is certainly no room to kill fellow Muslims, including a friend of mine who died in the World Trade Center attacks. If extremists were to respond to this by submitting that it was done for the greater good, I wonder what greater good? The thousands of lost American and Afghani lives or the thousands of lost American and Iraqi lives, this greater good? The greater good of the USA PATRIOT Act in the U.S. or the greater good of the shoot-to-kill practice in the UK?
By definition a killer of the innocent cannot be a Muslim, regardless of how small or great the number of lives they take. The Quran states in 5:32, “If anyone killed a person, it would be as if he killed all of mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” Therefore, the term “Islamic terrorist” is an oxymoron because there is nothing Islamic about terrorism. In the first battle the Muslims fought against the Pagan Arabs, history dictates that they were outnumbered three to one. They had virtually no horses, while the pagans had hundreds. Yet, they fought with the Islamic rules of engagement: Strike only at those who strike at you first, do not harm the elderly, cripples, women and children, do not cut down trees, do not rob civilians and share equal amounts of food and water with yourselves and your prisoners. Nowhere in those rules is kill the innocent for your political agenda. Nowhere in them is commit suicide.
All too often do we inadvertently stereotype or compartmentalize people as thinking and acting in unison. What if the rest of the world viewed every single American as one in the same? No Muslim who murders unarmed civilians or other Mulims is a Muslim to me, and I refuse to be stereotyped as one. I am proud to be an American-Muslim and proud to call D.C. my home. I am thankful that I have the right to express my thoughts in this country, and the freedom to practice my religion. I give my condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001, or in military service in a foreign country as a result of that day, and I pray for their lives.
-The writer is a 2005 GW graduate.