September 11, 2001 is a day that will never be forgotten in the United States. The events of that day touched deeply the hearts of every American, and of people from throughout the world. That day, an enemy, hidden from view, but deadly beyond belief, attacked America.
There is little doubt that people hate and fear perhaps, what they do not understand. Particularly when they have been led to believe things that are not true, and that are presented in a way that encourages suspicion and hatred and fear. Who hates America so deeply that they could attack us so brutally and kill so indiscriminately?
Immediately following the attack, the media issued a list of businesses that occupied the World Trade Center and the numbers of employees. They did not mention the fact that Muslims, many immigrants who came to America to escape the poverty and tyranny that has scarred the Muslim world, served in many of the restaurants in those buildings. And it was right that they did not, they did not distinguish one American from another, and neither should we.
For far too long Islam in America has been presented as a hybrid of foreign nationalism and religion that is easily adapted to almost any idea or sentiment that one can imagine.
Muslim lives are not more important to Muslims than others. Anyone who would suggest or who believes that Muslims or Islam would condone or celebrate such cowardice and evil are wrong. It is Muslims, who have been the victims of the worse acts of tyranny and terror in world history, and few people of any other faith have borne the amount of pain on almost a daily basis that Muslims do and have. This pain was worsened last week, as we shared in the shock and horror of this act of cowardice and aggression.
What is the lesson to be learned? There are many. But perhaps the most poignant of these lessons is that the lives of Muslims are intimately intertwined with the lives and well being of all Americans. The wreckage and death at the World Trade Center made that painfully clear.
For far too long Islam in America has been presented as a hybrid of foreign nationalism and religion that is easily adapted to almost any idea or sentiment that one can imagine. This is not true. The very laws that determine what is right and wrong also determine what is "Islamic" and what is not. This distinction becomes increasingly important as Americans and others seek to understand what Islam has to do with violence. The answer is nothing.
Many have suggested that America will never be the same; that our freedoms must be limited and we must accept the realities that this attack brought home. These people spoke as patriots. President Bush, in his address to the American people September 12 said something much more important. He said this type of evil could only succeed if we allow it to frighten us into surrendering the very principals that came under attack; freedom and democracy. Surely those who blew up the buildings and killed innocent people, did not expect that they had scored a military victory. But no doubt they did believe that they had scored a psychological victory, and that America will never be the same. They are right, because America will be better.
Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all other Americans will come together. We will sort out our sentiments and allay our fears with faith in God. We will refuse to allow the media or anyone to convince us that we must hate one another, attack one another, or suspect one another.
We will not support evil, however it dresses, speaks, or appeals for understanding. A nation divided cannot stand. Those who carried out yesterday's attack know that. They must also know, that America and her Muslim children included will not surrender. We have come too far for freedom, and we should not be turned back.
Anisa Abd el Fattah is editor of the Middle East Affairs Journal and director of media and public relations for the United Association for Studies and Research.