I am moved by the tragedy I see surrounding me. So many people desire to heal; yet, they hold on to the pain that causes the wounds of suffering to bleed. Over and over again, this country bleeds itself into war. I am startled by the anger, hate, and bitterness; and sadly, prejudice that buries this country in hallowed grounds. Empty of meaning we hold on to the words we believe, but cease to practice the belief that makes the words real.
For all of us, September 11th, 2001 is a day none of us will forget. It reminded us all that we are one country under God, but who’s God? I witnessed those planes flying into the buildings. I remember where I was. I was in my parent’s dining room, watching on the TV as the first plane got swallowed up in the North Tower. I had no understanding of the magnitude this moment would have on our history. Then when the second plane hit the South Tower, I knew history was here.
I will never forget how I felt, the chills running through me, the tears streaming down my face, the image of people jumping out of windows, the horror as the buildings fell. I was scared, vulnerable, unsure, and my world — our – world was rocked by Islamic Extremists, who decided that day was the day they would declare war on us.
They came from their hiding place in Afghanistan to wound us at our heart. And we went to their homeland to battle them back. Our President, George W. Bush, made it a point to remind us that we are not at war with the Muslim faith. He reminded us that Muslims didn’t attack us. It was not a religion that sought us out in war, but a marginalized group of extremist with warped views of their faith who declared war on the western world, and more directly with America in New York City in 2001.
I don’t find Islam to be a faith that speaks to me personally, but I do find the faith to be one that is easily misunderstood by the loud voice of extremists. It is those extremist who seek the attention, who choose to use their religion to gain power through external force. If this was the only face of Islam I would hold a very different view of acceptance. However, like so many worldly religions, Islam is battling against itself. Which direction will it go? And does it serve to stand ignorant to the true nature of Islam?
After the all, the very name speaks its truth, to Submit to God. A Muslim is one who submits to God. However, like most worldly religions, a lot of Muslims follow their leader’s view of God, not God in their Hearts. Does this make them bad people? No, not at all, just misguided, just like most of us are misguided in our understanding of the Islamic faith. Just like a good majority of people don’t believe President Obama is truly a Christian and that he may, indeed, be a Muslim, we fear that which is different. Rather then search out the truth for ourselves, sometimes we find it easier to avoid what scares us by rallying around other who share the same fear.
However, the truth about fear is that it divides us. It keeps us wounded. It gives us an enemy by allowing our minds to see us as right and our enemy as what is wrong. The unfortunate byproduct of fearing our fellow man is prejudice. We perceive ourselves as righteous, above them. We label with the most convenient labels, and we believe only that which keeps us in the right, even in the face of fact. For example, the fact is our President is not Muslim and is by worldly definition a Christian. Like him or dislike him, this is fact, but what if you just didn’t want to like him? What if his different scared you, but you didn’t want to face it? It is far more convenient to believe a lie than to search out the honest and authentic truth and form an opinion from that stand point.
For many people, they have not taken the time to get to know a Muslim, to understand the faith, separate from the tragedy. It has a history and it’s not pretty. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of Allah, but then again, I could say the same for Christianity. We’ve fought many religious wars in the name of our God. The graves linger around us, but we silence the voice of truth for the voice of being right. Those who claim they are right are often the ones who make the most noise. Perhaps, it is because they have nothing of love to share, so it’s kind of like a magic trick: if I shout loud enough and say it enough times, maybe they will believe me? Funny how magic works when we want so hard to believe it’s real. Look at the polls. Over time more people believe our President is a Muslim born outside this country, even when he has a birth certificate and married a Christian in a Christian Church. Maybe people want to believe it. Maybe they hear it enough and they think it has to be true? Or maybe people easily doubt themselves when they hear so much noise against what their intuition says. It’s easier to believe the world, because the world is so hard to ignore. It doesn’t matter if our President was a Muslim. What matters is who he is as a person, as a president. And that is a subject for another debate. Not here. Not in this blog or with me.
My question is this, what purpose does all this noise serve? Who is it serving? Does it serve us to divide ourselves as a country, as a people? Who is the enemy? If on 9/11 Al Qaeda sought to bring us down, does it not serve them alone to fight against a religion they themselves distort to serve their purpose? By fighting against the opening of a community center, two and a half blocks from Ground Zero, we don’t serve the memory of those who died that fateful morning; we only serve the ones who flew the planes into the twin towers. We serve to bleed ourselves with a sense of blind pride in order to fight a new enemy within our own minds. The man with a vision to heal our collective wounds is falsely being labeled an enemy. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been an activist for the cause of bringing us all together. He’s written 3 books. One of those books being titled, “What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America.” He has and founded two non-profit organizations with the intention to open the dialog for all. He is a moderate Muslim, not an extremist. And let’s not forget, he is an American. Also, it is important to point out that he has openly condemned the attacks of 9/11.
It is helpful to further point out that on that day more than 60 Muslims died in those attacks. They are among the dead. Here is a real vision from Tuesday, Sept 11th, 2001: a woman is wrapping her arms around her stomach, feeling the kick in her belly from her unborn child. Tears run down her face, as she reflects on her future dreams. The dreams she will not have of her child who is full of life, but who will never make it into the world. She knows nothing else to do, but to pray to Allah. She will never get to say goodbye to her husband. She will never get to know what it is like to hold her child and say his name in love. She is Rahma Salie, wife of Michael Theodoridis, and when we watched the plane burning in flames in the north tower she was burning with it. She was a victim of the terrorist attacks and she was a Muslim.
When we speak with such arrogance about a Mosque being built on sacred ground, let us not forget that it is a graveyard and honest God fearing Muslims, who believed in this country are buried there as well. They are American. A good majority of Muslims come here because of what America stood for: freedom for all. If you obey the law, you are free to pursue your beliefs regardless of how I or anyone feels about them. Are we going to throw that away? Are we really going to let the terrorist win by destroying not only the heart of our country, but the soul of our freedom? I hope not.
I hope we step away from our fear. I hope we reevaluate what makes us American by questioning those people who inject fear into our veins. Ask yourself, who started this fight against the community center? Who spread the lies? Look closely at it. Pamela Geller is at the root of this debate that has further divided this country in hate and intolerance. She is a blogger, who has a website dedicated to anti-Muslim rhetoric. She does not seek to unite our country, but redefine it in a separatist approach. She has done quite a bit to get attention. She has danced in her bikini and adorned herself in a super woman costume just to get someone’s attention! Well, I supposed she got it, but now what have we gained by listening to her? It’s magic. And what she speaks is not real. It is all an illusion to get attention. It doesn’t serve our country and humanity. It just opens the wounds, and from these wounds, she is speaking her own pain.
I am asking for all of us to heal, to turn this community center into something that proves America will not be beaten, not from the outside and certainly not from the inside. The Imam says there would be a memorial to the victims of 9/11 inside the center and all are welcome. If he is serious about healing America, then let’s help him. Let’s come together and let us have our religious freedoms honored, let the graves of all the innocent be honored, Let the grounds live in love, not in division. Lets bring the meaning back into the words this country was founded on. Let us grow into our Nation, not slice it up into sectioned off piece for you, for him, for her. Let us be One Nation under One God, and let that God have many names for all who pledge their allegiance to this great country. Do not let our minds create an enemy out of our collective pain. I ask this because no good at all will come out of denying the freedom of many. If we deny Muslims the right to create this community center then we hand our freedom over to our fear and it will only be Al Qaeda, who gains. We are not a country for the few. We are a country with many, diverse people, and with it comes the responsibility of understanding that sometimes, it’s not going to be easy. And that’s a good thing, because where is the reward in “easy?”
“”Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Let us be strong in our resolve for understanding and growth, so we, as a country, may all heal the wounds of the past and gain the reward of Lady Liberty standing tall, her torch stretched high above our collective pain, holding our strength in the flame of truth. We are greater than our fear. We should never forget that when our hearts are One, our Souls lives strong. We should now and forever stand United. God, please, bless America.