Of September 11, 2001


6. "The Future Of American Muslims After   September 11"

On September 11th, Islam in the USA was also attacked.  About 500 Muslims died in the WTC tragedy and rest of them became hostage to the fear, intimidation and insecurity about their future.  All the progress they had made in the growth of Islam in the USA for the last 50 years seems to be reversed and some immigrant Muslims even started to question whether they should go back to the country they came from.  Of course, those American Muslims like my children who were born here have no place to go.  This is their home.

The response of many  American Muslims to the tragedy of September 11th is in two extremes.  At one extreme is the group most visible on the internet,  still working on the conspiracy theory, that is this evil act was done by the work of Mossad, the CIA, the Pentagon, the Militia or the remote control devices blowing up the World Trade Center, completely denying the possibility that it could have been the evil act and plot by Muslim  Terrorists.  This group did not say enough to the fellow Americans that this act was an attack on humanity and not just on America, an attack on innocent civilians and even on the peaceful religion of Islam.  Thus, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, this group became a manifestation of the disease, identifying themselves with the cause of  terrorists and even trying to  justify their actions. 

On the other extreme is the group of Muslim leaders, who after recovering from the  shock of September 11th, suffered from unwarranted guilt complex and became apologetic.  After visits by the FBI, they realized that they must make a politically correct statement now in order to save American Islam.   They had to change their  tone of speech and writing, and even retracted and regretted their statements given before September 11th against the "super power".  Now, some of them are telling the same American Muslim audience, "if you do not like the West, go back to your own country".

Another prominent writer wrote, " the Muslims are hypocrites of grand scale,  in opposing the oppression by Israel, Serbia and Hindu but when the same acts are done by Al Qaaeda and other Muslim terrorist groups they look the other way".  True, but apples and oranges can not be compared.  Two wrongs do not make one right and there is no trade off, i.e. we must choose between two types of terrorists, two groups of oppressors and accept state terrorism over the group or individual terrorists.  Another group of Muslims find someone else to blame rather than accept responsibility.  Not too long ago, I was on a public forum at a Town Hall meeting.  My other counterpart speaker was an Afghan origin Professor who put all the blame of the recent trouble with the Taliban on Pakistan in creating, training and sponsoring Taliban terrorism.  Those who are true students of Taliban history know this is not true fact.  Talibans were created and strengthened with the help of CIA and the American government.  The American media never acknowledged the help given to mujahideens by Pakistan in fighting Russian aggression on Afghanistan.  We do not realize that if there was no Pakistan, Russians would have won their "great game" in very little time and conquered Afghanistan.  It was Pakistan who gave sanctuary to mujahideens and helped them with everything that they had to re-arm and regroup themselves to go back to Afghanistan and fight. . 

The American Talibans, likes of , Robertson and Falwell, never a fan of these Muslim leaders in the past, are now out to discredit them even more, saying something like this to the American media " Do not believe these American Muslim leaders.  Look at what they wrote in the past and said in the National convention of Muslims 2 years ago.  Look at what they have actually done themselves to fight terrorism.  Look at what they said against the killing of Israeli's like the Cabinet Minister Zeevi or Christian worshipers in a Pakistani church.  Do not listen to what they are saying now under the pressure, against Bin Laden or AL-Qaaeda". " Islam is the enemy" says Pat Robertson.

Thus, the average middle class, Mosque going Muslims who run grocery stores, are office workers or students, are totally confused at what they should do or say.  Should they side with the terrorists overseas or with the super power who is bombing the innocent civilians in hospitals and houses there in order to free the whole world of these terrorists.  How can we present Islam to those who stereotype, profile and even call us their enemy?  On record are close to 1,000 cases of such hate crimes since September 11th.  Is the FBI our friend or our foe?  Will our children get admission to schools of flight training, biomedical research and nuclear physics or will we ever feel comfortable flying as a passenger in an airplane?  Will our women in hijab be able to go shopping without any fear?  The joy of being a Muslim in America is gone, at least for now.   All the progress we have made in the last 30 years is being reversed.  We have to start all over again.  How can we live our faith while we work  with those who defame it?  We American Muslims are going through the most difficult time in our history in this country.  These are difficult questions and I have no simple solution to offer.  My advice is to the mainstream ordinary American Muslims and not to our  leadership.  I hope and pray we regain our bruised self esteem.   Many of us, especially those from overseas, tend to live in the past and not in the present.  While our bodies are here, our hearts and minds were left behind somewhere else.  We need to bring our hearts to the land we have adopted as our home now.

I suggest to myself and all ordinary American Muslims to wake up and take charge of our  religion as we  have to take charge of our families, our health and our lives.  We should learn Islam for ourselves as a religion of love, peace and tolerance and prove it by our individual actions.  If we want to be counted as American Muslims, we must take all the concerns of Americans, whether terrorism, Anthrax, drugs, violence or even pollution as our own concerns.  We must show Islam by our actions, not by speeches, video tapes and pamphlets.  We must denounce all those who use religion for their political gain and denounce political powers who wish to abase religion of Islam.  Thus, we as ambassadors of Islam, must be careful in what we say and to whom we lend our ears and even our money.  We must reclaim our faith from the terrorists who hijacked it and also from the leadership who apologize for them.  We did not do anything wrong so we should not have low esteem.  God  has chosen Islam for us and we are thankful for it.  As for the question being asked "are you with us or with the terrorists?", we say "we are neither with the terrorists nor with those intent to terrorize us.  We are here to stay, vote and participate in the American process and we are neither going back no can we be interned.  Make no mistake!"

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Shahid Athar, MD
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Indianapolis, IN 46260