Friday, September 9, 2011

Reflections on 9/11 from a Muslim country

Like so many others, I clearly remember what I was doing when the terrorists attacked. Clark who was 2 years old at the time had just finished breakfast and asked to watch TV. I turned it on to find a morning show reporting that a small airplane, possibly a helicopter, had just crashed into the World Trade Center. No one seemed particularly alarmed, so I continued onto PBS and put on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for Clark to enjoy. I went back to cleaning up the kitchen. About 20 minutes later, Andrew called from work to tell me to turn on the TV. That's when I began to realize the enormity of what was unfolding.

Whenever I look back on that day, what strikes me the most is the stark contrast between Fred Rogers' message of neighborly acceptance and the hatred that motivated the terrorists and subsequently some Americans. Being a Muslim in America has undoubtedly changed post-9/11. Just look at the vitriolic opposition to the Muslim community center being built a couple blocks away from Ground Zero. Three months before moving to Malaysia, someone close to my heart forwarded me an email. It's main objective was to stir up fear of  Muslims. Among it's many claims was, "All followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of [Islamic] faith so that they can have a place in heaven." My response: "I'm about to move to a country that has a Muslim majority and only 9% Christians. I don't need to be told that most of them are out to kill me."

Now that I've been here for a few months, I can see how harmoniously people of various faiths interact here. At the food courts during lunch, I see coworkers enjoying their lunches together. In the same group, some women will be wearing hijabs (headscarves) while the non-Muslims are not. They're chatting and friendly with each other. When I watch them, I understand that although everyone is special and unique, there are some things that make us all the same. Isn't that what Mister Rogers wanted us to learn?

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