11 Years after September 11th: Remembrance and Resilience
This year’s commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be held at the peak of the presidential election campaigns. Both candidates and their surrogates would do well to focus on remembrance and resilience and hold the divisive rhetoric.
Innocent men, women and children went to work that tragic Tuesday morning but did not return to their families, loved ones and friends. Courageous and selfless first responders, a Muslim among them, rushed in to save whoever they could on that day filled with chaos and confusion, and sacrificed their lives in the process.
We should realize that a cult of terror, comprised of 19 Muslim men, took part in a most inhuman, incomprehensible and unjust series of actions that destroyed innocent lives and destroyed property but failed to destroy the resolve of our nation to be resilient.
We hold those 19 men responsible for the death and destruction they unleashed on 9/11. They are also responsible in part for the death and destruction unleashed during the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and in all theaters of war where innocent lives have been lost during the commission of the war on terror. Since 9/11, hundreds of men and women in the armed forces have sacrificed their lives, and thousands of innocent Muslims have lost their lives, in these wars.
These 19 men and their organization of terror provoked and continue today to perpetuate the need for a war on terror. For that, we must hold the terrorists responsible, even as we hold our own government accountable so that we never lose sight of American ideals of justice and the protection of civil rights and civil liberties.
Let us also be clear, when it is said that those 19 men and their cult of terror hijacked the religion of Islam, we say, such an assertion is an insult to the religion of Islam and to its 1.5 billion followers and should be rejected.
Claiming that any religion can be hijacked dignifies the outlook of the terrorists and their ilk. It allows for the possibility that religious teachings can be distorted and twisted to support evil. Nothing within any religion, certainly not within Islamic teachings, allows for the support of evil, in any form, for any purpose. Period.
Only those with evil minds and stones for hearts could distort the teachings of Islam to reach the conclusion that terrorism, extremism, radicalism and senseless violence can be justified. Muslims condemn terrorism. Muslim scholars have condemned terrorism repeatedly. Terrorism is not permissible in the name of Allah, senseless acts of violence cannot be justified in the name of Islam, or in the defense of Islam, or in the defense of the honor of Prophet Muhammad, or in the defense of Muslim lands, whether they are occupied or not.
With regards to the sanctity of life, the Quran teaches that killing an innocent person is like killing all of humanity, and saving a life is like saving all of humanity. Regrettably, neither the terrorists nor the anti-Islamic hate-mongers can comprehend or appreciate the depth and breadth of the principle of the sanctity of life.
The Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to value and honor life and property. He taught self-restraint, self-discipline and self-control. He taught mercy, mercy toward all humans — indeed, mercy toward all of God’s creation.
As we remember that tragic day, our response to those terrorist attacks must be a strengthening of our resolve to be resilient. By being resilient, we show that despite adversity, despite difficulty, despite challenges we have faced, we are capable of bouncing back and resuming our lives with some degree of normalcy.
This has been a traumatic decade. There will be a long-term impact on our collective psyche due to the terrible loss of life on that day, in the wars which have followed, and the hate-induced violent incidents this summer. But we must not retreat. Let us turn our attention in these days of remembrance to capacity building and community development. Let us promote civic engagement and community service. Let us not allow cults of terror and bigots at home or abroad to divert our attention from solving social challenges such as hunger, homelessness, immigration, food insecurity, education, persistent unemployment and lack of health insurance.
As the years pass, let us remember always that terrorists attacked us on 9/11, bigots continue their senseless violence and destruction and desecration of houses of worship and personal property. Neither the terrorists nor the bigots will defeat us. We are resilient. We are Americans.
Altaf Husain, an Assistant Professor in the Howard University School of Social Work, in Washington D.C., is a research fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a member of the board of trustees of the Islamic Society of North America.
This article was published by The Huffington Post on September 11, 2012. Read it here.