Back in February, President Obama issued a national call to service to help mobilize ordinary citizens to come together and engage in civic projects in service of their fellow citizens and the nation. The focal point for this self-driven community activism and volunteerism is the new government website, Serve.gov, which has labeled the campaign “United We Serve.” One aspect of this is to reclaim September 11th as a positive message of American spirit rather than defeat:
President Barack Obama is asking Americans to volunteer on Sept. 11, making this year’s anniversary of the terror attacks the first National Day of Service and Remembrance, organizers announced Thursday.
“Our ultimate goal is to leave a positive legacy that honors the victims and those who rose in service,” said David Paine, the president of MyGoodDeed, one of the organizations responsible for the event.
“We hope to rekindle the spirit of unity and compassion that followed the terrorist attacks,” he told a news conference near the site of the World Trade Center.
The idea of establishing 9/11 as a National Day of Service was first conceived in 2001 by the founders of MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit started by friends and relatives of 9/11 victims. They are working with ServiceNation, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and New York Cares.
In April, Obama authorized the establishment of 9/11 as a National Day of Service when he signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
This campaign of service is an opportunity for muslim Americans in particular, to be part of this nationwide movement but also to move past our own tangled emotional relationship with 9-11. Given that 9-11 occurs during Ramadan for a few years, it is precisely during this time of inwards reflection and resolve that we can step forward and reject 9-11 as an anniversary of fear and suspicion, but instead see it as an opportunity for healing and coming together.
As the Qur’an says, muslims may honor God by serving humanity. Thus, community service becomes not just an act of civic duty and pride, but also an act of piety in and of itself. What better way than to refute the twisted ideology that gave rise to 9-11 than to embrace our own communities and fellow citizens, to make America even stronger, and do so with the blessing of Islam?
Here are just a few of the United We Serve projects at Serve.gov being spearheaded by muslim-Americans: