Today marks the 12th anniversary of the most tragic event in recent American history. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that the four airliners were not the only thing hijacked on that day. Those 19 men also hijacked my religion, and I want it back.
It is necessary, respectful, and demanded by propriety that we use this day to reflect in solace on all of the lives lost and families torn on that day. However, we should also recognize that this day is an opportunity not only to mourn, but to build a new future.
Twelve years later, there is still a deeply entrenched environment of mistrust and hostility against American Muslims. This fear and mistrust of Muslims is founded primarily upon a lack of understanding and ignorance.
According to a 2010 Pew research poll, 55% of Americans admitted that they do not know very much, if anything at all, about the Islamic faith. Only 53% percent said they knew someone who was a Muslim. It is even more alarming that from the time Pew started collecting these statistics in 2001, they have barely nudged forward.
The mistrust is also caused by us Americans listening to the wrong voices. For far too long, we have allowed a plethora of pseudo-scholars, so-called “experts”, and ideologically driven activists to monopolize our national discourse on Islam, turning Islamophobia into a multimillion-dollar industry.
Allow me a short message to my Muslim brothers and sisters. If we Muslims fail to tell our story, the vitriolic fabrications and tall tales about Islam present in mainstream media will only continue to increase.
Ignorance may be bliss, but in Islamic theology, humans were never promised heaven on earth. As such, we must continue to educate, and, perhaps more importantly, de-educate at every opportunity.
I would never venture to say that there is no radical presence among some Muslims. Indeed, there is a radical presence amongst all religious groups today. However, it is important to realize that the radical few do not represent the majority of the world’s second largest religion’s adherents, most of whom believe in in the spirit of verse 32 of the fifth chapter of the Quran, which declares the taking of one human’s life to be equivalent to taking the life of all of humankind.
As I write these words, I can already hear all the voices, both Muslim and non-Muslim, telling me to leave it alone. “People are too sensitive,” they say. But I refuse, because I believe the hyper-sensitive environment which surrounds such events only serves to stifle the critical discussions that help us progress as a nation and a people.