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Islam Did Not Bring Down the Towers

On this anniversary of 9/11, many old emotions are stirred up for each of us Americans. I remember sitting and watching the TV with my coworkers as the second plane hit. And then the hostility at me, for my religion, Islam, because the people who bragged about bringing down the World Trade Center towers claimed they were not only Muslim, but more Muslim than me. To those who did not know better, their argument made plenty of sense. They were willing to die after all and then shout “Allahu Akbar” as they killed thousands of innocent people. Their leaders wore long bears and turbans and lived in caves. Their zeal made them seem back then and even today more true to Islam, than the modern Islam I live in America. When it happened, I was a recent convert, who even then didn’t have the long beard or the turban. I live in the suburbs, love to wear jeans and at best have some stubble on my chin.
I worked that job for another two months. The hostility became too much. I quit during Ramadan because I was arguing with those same coworkers as I tried to fast. But I am in no way a victim of 9/11. People died, doing heroic things that I may never come close to doing. I went on to a better job, even though I still deal with the same old prejudice. When I first converted to Islam, I thought all Muslims were certainly rocket scientist. It took me about three years to begin to see Muslims as normal people who coincidentally happened to share my faith. As with any faith, there are those with whom you share a common vision and those who you are only connected to by the slimmest and slightest ways of prayer or belief.
I have studied Islam for ten years now. I am a poor student. I no longer see all Muslims as super smart. Some of us have an amazing ability to memorize long chapters of the Quran called Surahs. Some of us are at the mosque five times a day and never miss a group prayer. But then there are many others. There are those who almost never go to the mosque or go only during Ramadan or those who only go twice a year during the Eids (think Islamic Christmas) and those of us who see Islam merely as a culture. I have seen people who can memorize expertly say and think in ways that simply will never work in America. I have seen people who say they love Islam hate their fellow man in ways totally contradictory to our faith. Islam tells us to study, but as in any class, there are some who lose the basic message.
The simple analogy is that of both Jesus and Muhammad. Both started out as single individuals, totally surrounded by either ignorance or unbelief. A single believing soul in a sea of unbelievers, if either had come to their people and said, “slay the infidels,” today none of us would be Christian nor Muslim. The both of these great men spread their God-given truths with love and patience and wisdom. Christians know of the great compassion of Jesus and his teaching to turn the other cheek. But many do not know that our Prophet Muhammad is given a similar status in Islam. After his bloodless conquest of Mecca, Muhammad controlled hundreds of people who had spent years trying to kill him. In all, less than five people were executed and the rest of the city was spared and given total amnesty. They were his cousins and he knew them and their hate of him intimately, yet there was no bloodbath, no mass revenge. No mass murder. We are also taught about the Prophet’s neighbor who threw trash in his yard everyday and when the neighbor stopped, Muhammad inquired and found out he was ill and went to visit the same man who everyday had thrown dead animals and trash in his path.
To be a serious major world religion, you can’t be crazy and mad-dog intolerant. The history of Christianity and Judaism bear this out. I have known hundreds of compassionate Christians who would give you the coats off their backs. As a child on welfare, I was treated (indigant care) at a Jewish hospital when a wound I received as a 12 year old, almost caused me to lose my big toe. What is overlooked by those who don’t know better is that this history of compassion is a Muslim tradition as well. The prejudice I face today is that despite all the good Jewish and Christian people, some go bad. When someone goes bad who was raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Westerners know, that is someone who simply rejected good teachings and decided to be a criminal. Only in my faith, is there this uninformed assumption that the criminals know my faith better than I do.
This goes back to appearance. Catholic criminals don’t put on the Pope’s robes before they go out and do crime. Clothes, beards and hats are not the religion. In our hearts, somewhere we know, that if God exists, He loves us in spite of our religion. On 9/11 people rushed towards what looked like, and was for many, certain death. This is the best evidence of the existence of the human soul. That we care for each other and yearn to serve all of mankind in the best way is a basic human instinct. As Muslims we have it in every bit of our teachings. Yet hate overcomes some of us and the hate leads to ignorance or ignoring the good and basic teachings we get for something arcane, which often ends up being a twisted version of the product that has lasted for a thousand years.
If Muslims in 1930 decided to stage a mass murder of Americans or Europeans in the more hostile world of the 20th century, there is a high probability that there would be no major Muslim population in the world today. This criminal endeavor where people put on the clothes and the beard and then do heinous acts is a modern phenomenon, basically done by criminals who have dropped traditional teachings. In the Ottoman Empire for example, at the end people were not being stoned and beheaded with any rabid frequency because in Islam you are not to spy on your neighbor. In Islam, you are always think the best of any person and before you make any charge, you need at least four witnesses. So the stoning for adultery thing, unless you happened to be an exhibitionist, just didn’t happen much.
We Muslims are people. We are mad at the terrorists, and not just because they kill Muslims more than any other group. We are angry at them for lying on our religion. Some people from every sphere of life get caught up in anti American thinking and that includes Muslims. That is why you saw the cheering on 9/11. The Third World saw the bully getting bloodied, but that was not a cheer based on religion. It is not in Islam that we cheer the bad that comes to someone else. That was politics. There is a lot of bad politics in the the Arab world and even worse politics inside of Pakistan.
I am an American and a veteran and I want and pray for us to pick the right enemies, because we are America and we tend not to lose a fight. We need to pick the right fight and defeat the criminals, regardless of their professed religion. The terrorists’ only hope is that we pick the wrong people as we did in Iraq. Because when we unleash our might on innocent people, we create new enemies and isolate ourselves on the world stage. I am an American Muslim. This is my country. We need to win this war for America… and for the sake of the true spirit of Islam.
Peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allah
Gregory Abdur Rahman


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