When a Faith Brings Fear

In a matter of days, our nation will remember a day ten years ago when a group of extremist flew planes into the two the World Trade Center towers, the side of the Pentagon, and brought down another plane in a field.  These attacks brought this nation to its knees.  The largest attack on our nation, killing thousands and scaring the lives of millions. 

Some call these men terrorists.  Others will call them freedom fighters.  No matter what you call them, they inflicted a wound that still seeps and bleeds to this day.  That wound is fear. 

This morning, an article on the front page of the Washington Post caught my eye.  Above it, a photo of a 19-year-old UCLA student wearing a hijab, the traditional headscarf of the Muslim faith.  In the article, it discussed the fragile relationship that the American society has with a faith that has been associated with the attack on our country almost ten years ago.  It points fingers at political figures and systems of government that continue to ignore and oppose those who follow Islam. 

The article also pointed out that, in the days following the attacks of 11 September 2001, when everyone was pointing blame at the Muslim world, George W. Bush stepped barefoot into a mosque to remind us that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.” 

Yet, as I continued to read the sampling of interviews with Americans about Islam, I wondered if any of us even gave that gesture a glancing notice.  It seems to me like we, as a nation and society, fear anyone who may look like a Muslim or was born of the Middle-Eastern decent.  I am saddened to hear of a woman, a mother harassed by security because of the faith she follows.  I am disheartened to hear that people see a child and wonder if he will grow to be a terrorist. 

While studying contemporary and modern art history in college, my professor told us a story that silenced the entire class.  In the days that followed the attack of Sept. 11th, someone told her that all terrorists were Muslim, that you would never find a Christian blowing up a building.  With that, she turned to him and asked “Then explain the events in Ireland.” 

It wasn’t and will never be just one group of individuals killing people.  In a recent trip to Ireland, I was experience some of the history as I walked down the streets of Derry (or Londonderry depending on who you talked to).  I saw memorial after memorial to those who had been killed by bombs from both sides of the conflict.  Innocent men, women and children killed by both English and Irish, Catholic and Protestant. 

And yet, all these years later, they live side by side in peace.  The border between the Republic of Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland, still loyal to the British crown, once lined with fences and guns, is now just a line on a map, where people can move freely between. 

And I asked how one can forgive after the blood ran into the streets.  When it was your brother who was killed.  Or your child caught in the crossfire.  You never forget, but we learn how to forgive.  You learn to move on and keep living.

I don’t blame the followers of Islam for the attack on our country, no more than I blame the sons of those who brought violence against the civil rights movement years before.  Or the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who watched the youth take to the streets of Ireland. 

The extremists that brought this country to its knees accomplished more than just killing people, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives.  They plunged a knife into our hearts and let in fear.  We reacted, lashed out, and continue to do so to this day.  We walk down the streets in fear because we want to point the finger an entire faith when we should be seeing the individual. 

In the article from the Washington Post, advisors to this country have said that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have used the same rhetoric as street gangs, calling on the feeling of “us versus them” as they recruit followers.  I see the same thinking in the American society, we blame ‘them’ for the attacks.  I read blogs that say vile things about a faith that they do not understand, but only see the extremes of.  I hear people whisper that everyone who follows Islam will kill you in your sleep.  This feeling of “us versus them” is because we created it.

We cannot judge the Islamic faith solely on the acts of several individuals that piloted planes into buildings, sending thousands to their deaths.  Nor can we judge the Christian faith on the bombs that ripped through Ireland, killing indiscrimatley. 

Our country is the melting pot of the world.  We are one family.  This is part of our history.  Now is the time to heal. 

God Bless and PEACE

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