Twin Towers Viewed from A Western Minaret

A muslim, an American, a Muslim-American

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Becoming a Muslim satisfied me in personal ways, too. For one thing, a concrete and meaningful practice had emerged from my years of seemingly aimless travel. It is not every day that a wayward youth winds up rewarding your spirit in lasting ways.

It took other people to make me think I had done something strange by becoming a Muslim. Indeed, until just the other day, it was only when faced with their joking remarks and quizzical expressions that I felt at all uneasy in my skin. Among Muslims, and on my own, I have always felt at home with the decision. Then, a few days ago, a trio of passenger jets slammed into the New York Trade Center towers and into the Pentagon, and things changed.

The unrecorded suffering of the thousands dead in New York and Washington D.C., and the life-long agony those left behind must live with, will be the proper focus of our thought and prayer for a long time to come. And yet there is an undercurrent attached to these events, a potential for violence based on a lack of understanding, that is worth addressing quickly, before it surfaces more starkly in our society and darkens the lives of innocent citizens.

Today, you might say, I feel like three people.

As an American, I am filled with horror by what has occurred. My shock derives from the violence of the actions and coldness of their execution. It isn't hard to feel the agony of having loved ones ripped from your side, so that a handful of fools can make a point. Like most other Americans, I am angry too. For one thing, we live in an open society; and now, in a couple of hours, a handful of desperate people have jeopardized the spirit of that society. I am also afraid that in the days ahead cooler heads will not prevail. Gandhi once said, "An eye for eye, and soon everyone will be blind."

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It is complicated enough to feel these things. Yet as a Muslim I have other, different feelings. As a Muslim, I'm appalled by the actions of the extremists who, very likely, will claim to have been acting, at least in part, in Islam's name when they committed these atrocities. This is a flagrant case of political desperadoes wrapping themselves in a religious flag. Islam teaches that when a person takes another life unlawfully it is as if he were killing all humanity. There is no political rhetoric that can reverse this moral law. The people who turned commercial airplanes into flying bombs and murdered thousands of innocent people will, in the imagery of the Quran, now burn in a spiritual Hell. Their families and remaining friends should confess their shame and ask God's forgiveness, for starters. The actions of the perpetrators have nothing to do with Islam.

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