But the apparent rise in anti-Semitism and constant turmoil in Israel have left Jews reeling. Many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, were quick to link the terrorist attacks to U.S. support for Israel. Though initially focusing his wrath on American troups in Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden soon began saying his attacks were punishment against Israeli treatment of Palestinians. In Arab countries, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the classic anti-Semitic treatise, gained new life and credibility. Rumors that the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, had actually planned the attack gained alarmingly widespread credence.
In October, Salam Al-Marayati, a respected American Muslim leader prominent in national efforts to promote interfaith dialogue, said in an interview on a Los Angeles radio talk show that Israel should be on the "suspect list" of those who carried out the attacks. A few days later, another scandal emerged: Imam Mohammed Gemeaha of New York's prominent Islamic Cultural Center had fled to Cairo, where he gave an interview in Arabic stating that "Jews planned those terrorist attacks."
A report from the American Jewish Committee claimed anti-Semitic speech in the Arab world was measurably on the rise. "The stream of vitriolic and verbal imagery extends from Morocco to the Gulf states and Iran," the report said. "It is as strong in supposedly 'moderate' Egypt as it is in openly hostile Arab nations such as Iraq, Libya and Syria." They cited cases in which reputable Arab newspapers printed reports that Jews use the blood of Christian or Muslim children in their holiday celebrations.
For many Jews, the rise in anti-Semitism in the Muslim world was most horrifically symbolized by the brutal kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Islamic terrorists in Pakistan slit Pearl's throat after forcing him to announce the fact that he was a Jew. "My mother [or father] is a Jew, and I am a Jew," were Pearl's last words. For Jews who had doubted the prevalence of anti-Semitism before, Pearl's murder brought new feelings of insecurity.
An American Style of Islam Grew
While much attention has been focused on Islamic leaders overseas--What are they saying? Are they denouncing terrorism?--something dramatic has been happening within the American Muslim community. Respected Muslim writer Michael Wolfe puts it this way: "Privately, in our mosques and in our homes--away from the judging ears of the world--we began talking to each other with an honesty born of urgency. We knew something had to be done or our religion was going to be tarnished, even corrupted. In the year since September 11th, American Muslims began to do something extraordinary. WE began to take back Islam."
Wolfe's comment, in "Taking Back Islam," a collection of essays by prominent American Muslims, is just one example of a year-long, spontaneous effort by many American Muslims leaders to energize their faith.
Other examples include the group Muslims Against Terrorism, a group of young Muslims who mobilized in the aftermath of 9/11 to fight terrorism in the name of Islam.
W.D. Mohammed, the leading African American muslim in the United States, condemned the terrorist attacks and used Qur'anic verses to explain why the destruction of innocent civilians and property was un-Islamic. "[T]hey are really out of the circle and framework of Islam with their conduct. So we are talking about terrorists,not Muslims," he wrote in the "Muslim Journal."
Beliefnet members were active in defining what this new American style of Islam would be. Muslims struggled with their post-9/11 Muslim identity. Member mnn wrote, "Despite our problems in the U.S., this is a great country to be Muslim. Our freedoms to worship are guaranteed by the constitution...our freedom to NOT worship is also guaranteed. In these other Muslim countries where ritualistic adherence to Islam is the law, I could never live there." On message boards dedicated to "Defining an American Islam," Muslim members wrote about the unique challenges of being Muslim in America, such as wearing hijab, raising Muslim children, and dealing with the growing diversity of the American Muslim population.
Though it's too early to tell how significant this movement will become, it's possible that one of the most significant effects of 9/11 will be the creation of a vibrant new form of Islam in the United States.
Will these developments last? Any one of these incipient trends could reverse. American Muslims may prove unable or unwilling to chart a course dramatically different from that of their overseas brethren. The positive personality traits may continue to drop and anti-Semitism may return to its familiar status as persistent low-grade fever. Or something else may emerge not even being considered now.But it is clear that at least in the last year, the 9/11 attacks had profound spiritual significance.