September 11th and Islam

I know September 11th was a long time ago (not to say the wounds made that day will heal anytime soon), but I never made any public comments regarding the tragedy, and I think I probably should, particularly considering I'm a member of the Islamic faith. My family and I received many e-mails, house calls, and other kind messages the week of September 11th from friends and family asking if we had been affected by the terrorist attack, either by having a loved one in New York, or by being harassed because of our religion. The answer to both of those questions is no, and for those of you who e-mailed me to ask, thank you very much for your kindness. ^_^ Thankfully, where I live there is more encouragement for Muslims than anything, as my neighbors and peers seem to know full well that bin Laden and his terrorist followers are absolutely degrading the name of Islam. If anything, people seem to want to learn more about the faith they know so little about.

Unfortunately, Islam is horribly misunderstood here in the West. Considering that, next to Christianity, Islam is the largest religion in the world and has over a billion followers in countries from Malaysia to Germany to America, it's sad to know educated people still seem surprised to know "Allah" is the exact same God the Christians and Jews believe in, that Jesus Christ (Alehi Salaam*) is considered a very important prophet to Muslims, and that women's rights are so extensive that over a thousand years ago, when female babies were being buried in other parts of the world, Muslim women could own property and take jobs where they could keep every cent of their income. In mainstream movies, I'm continuously disappointed to see Muslim characters perform their daily prayers incorrectly or Muslim terrorists kill innocents "in the name of Allah." Islam is a religion of peace and submission to God. Messages are spread through education, not violence. Why must Muslims be portrayed so negatively in the United States?

Bin Laden is a very strong example of why. Extremist terrorists like he who kill innocents and bomb buildings "in the name of Allah" give millions of people a bad name--not only Muslims, and Arabs, but everyone who wishes to follow a religion faithfully. Being religious doesn't make you an extremist or a terrorist. Islam doesn't make me think of hatred or repression, it makes me think of scrambling on my parents' backs when they did prayers during my childhood, of the peaceful, cleansing feeling of the fast, of the way my father showed me, when I was young, how each penny I gave to the poor turned into a seed in heaven that grew into a tree and showered hundreds of seeds of blessing. Islam is the most constant, most dependable, and most beautiful thing in my life. It's there when things are good and when things are not; it keeps things in perspective, and eliminates so much of the stress of school and work. Little failures in life aren't worth worrying about if you're a good person. I love Islam, and I love God more than I love anyone or anything. There's a lot of comfort in that.

Through all of the pain that started on September 11th, just please remember that one can't judge a religion based on the few insane extremists who hurt people and make it to the news. Muslims grieve over those who lost their lives in New York, and true Muslims hate bin Laden for his crimes and his message of hate. For those affected by that day of terror, my heart goes out to you. I hope with you that whoever is responsible for this crime, be it bin Laden or anyone else, is brought to justice. May God bless the souls of those who lost their lives, and bless the souls of those who still live. God bless us all.

-Lianne, 11/5/01

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