By: Isha “Ice” Cole
On September 11, 2001 the world witnessed one of the most vicious terrorist attacks ever made on U.S. soil. That day not only changed the lives of Americans, but also Muslims all around the world. Living in a post 9/11 society has been very rough for Muslims in America. Speaking as a Black woman who is Muslim, I never thought I would see the day when it would seem easier to be Black in this country.
I’m very sympathetic to the families that lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attack. That moment hit me hard. I tortured myself continuously on a daily basis watching the news coverage, and I did not know one soul who died on that day. I shed tears for the innocent lives that were lost and the torn families that were left behind. I am a very proud Muslim, but on 9/11 I cried too.
It’s the year 2010, and last month we observed the nine year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Currently we have an African-American president, and one might think that we are moving in a positive direction with regard to racism, bigotry and other issues that have plagued this country for centuries.
Yes, we have come a long way, but this is America, an extremely diverse country and the land of the free. We can do better!
A few months ago, a huge debate began in New York about building a Mosque just blocks away from Ground Zero where the World Trade Center towers once stood, and the protests have continued. The future Mosque, which is actually called Park51, will be a community center with a Mosque located inside the center. Many people are so consumed and angered by the Mosque aspect of the facility that they do not realize how much the center is offering.
Park51 plans to have classrooms for arts and culture, athletic facilities, inter-faith services and much more. The center will also honor those killed on September 11, 2001 with a public memorial within the facility as well as reflection space open to all.
Opponents of the community center project are questioning the center’s Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf because of comments the he made about possible U.S. blame in the 9/11 attacks, and his alleged sympathy for Islamic terrorist organizations.
Rauf has been a strong force in the fight to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West through his organization the Cordoba Initiative. For many years, Rauf has also been a frequent speaker at major U.S. think tanks and international conferences.
For a second, I believed that the objection to building a Mosque was solely about the location, but it’s much bigger than that. There are other locations around the country that are having or were having similar debates about Mosques coming into their communities including Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Temecula, California and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Recently, a fire was set at the future Mosque site in Tennessee, which destroyed some construction equipment. In New York City, a cab driver was stabbed several times because he was Muslim. Terry Jones, the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida and his congregation planned to burn Qur’ans to protest the September 11 terrorist attacks, but their event was finally called off.
Though the highly publicized Qur’an burning was called off in Florida, it did not stop others from lighting fire to the holy book expressing their hate for the Islamic religion.
These Mosque debates and hate incidents that are happening around the country are not about sacred ground where thousands of people lost their lives. We are witnessing an anti-Muslim movement – or Islamophobia – running wild. The message is being received loud and clear around the world!
During the Ramadan Iftar dinner (breaking of the Ramadan fast) at the White House on August 13, 2010, President Obama expressed his views on the controversy, which in turn raised more controversy:
“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” said the President. “That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
Hey, our President was merely stating the facts… that this is good ole America. The land that we love, because you can come here from other countries, be free, live the dream, and escape oppression from dictators. When you come here there’s justice for everyone! This is America! Right?
It is estimated that there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world making, up about 23% of the world’s population. Islam is growing because of the beauty of the religion, which many do not understand. How is there so much hate for a religion whose initial greeting to all is Asalaam Wailkum, which means peace and blessing be on to you?
This is a religion that observes an entire month Ramadan, when we fast from sunrise to sunset, with no food or water, so that we may be grateful for what we have. Fasting allows us to be grateful that it’s only for hours that we feel hunger, unlike the millions of people around the world who are constantly starving on a daily basis.
Ramadan is month where it is imperative to pray for yourself and others, give charity and help the elderly. This is only a small glimpse of the holy month, which is deeply rooted in the heart of the Islamic religion.
Sadly enough, I believe many people forget or may not know that more than 50 Muslim men and women died on that dreadful September day as well. They were innocent lives too – they did not sign up for a suicide mission or to be martyrs. They were hard working, patriotic Americans just like the rest of us.
America, not all Muslims are terrorists. How do we co-exist when you are afraid of us? How will this country’s perception of Muslims change when the media only shows constant images of bombs and blasts? Where are the positive images of the millions of righteous Muslims around the world?
I’m patiently waiting to personally hear “We don’t want your kind here.” You know, the “us versus them” mentality that is spreading rapidly around our nation. Someone please tell me what happened to justice for all?
Tread carefully, folks. It was Black people yesterday, Muslims today… it could be you tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Please leave your comments below!
Follow Isha “Ice” Cole on Twitter @MissCEO_Ice