This piece is truly my personal opinion supported with some data that I gathered during the progress of this essay. If there’s something that makes the readers uncomfortable, Im gladly to accept some critics and suggestions. This piece was submitted as one my portfolios for writing class at Humboldt State University, California.
Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 was a shocking day for Americans and the world. 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group Al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets in a terrible way. Two of the airplanes were crashed into the World Trade Center tower in New York City. The third plane was crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the last one crashed a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. More than 3000 people died in the buildings that were hit by those planes (What Happened on 9/11?). It was one of the most horrible days for Americans. Then lots of fingers “pointed out” to Islam as a religion that is behind this terrible attack.
However, the truth behind this tragedy is still hidden. As a Muslim, I cannot say that this is truly a war between Islam and America. I cannot take a conclusion as that fast. Besides that, the conspiracy theory of the 9/11 is also out there, but I am not talking about that. Terrorism, like any other criminal act, must be fought against. Apparently, it is very difficult to see this case in a fair way, especially for the west side, the United States.
After that horrible day, the lives of Muslims in the United States suddenly changed. There are many eyes looking at them as terrorists, and looking at Islam as a terrorism-based religion. Discrimination, prejudice and negative sentiments are inseparable from Muslims’ daily lives. At last, the word Islamophobia comes up to the surface. It is a word refers to irrational fear and hatred of Muslims as an identifiable group (Civil Liberties). Everything that has a relation to suicide bombing, or other terrorist attacks always addressed to Muslims, and it is obvious.
One example comes from Abdus Sattar Gazhali, a Master Degree in Political Science from the Punjab University, Pakistan. He said on his online magazine, American Muslim Perspective that two years after the 9/11, the Muslims community in America, remains under siege. They got profiled, harassed, reviled, attacked, peeped at by the CIA and the FBI, interrogated and permanently controlled at airports. The whole community felt excluded from American society.
For Muslims, living in western countries is a struggle. Most of them follow secularism which is opposite with what Islam requires to its followers, to follow lots of religious rules. As we know that if a country follows secularism, it means there is a separation between government institutions and religious ones. In other word, secularism asserts the right to be free from religious rules and teachings.
It will be difficult for Muslims to find a mosque for praying together, to find a halal food, or to conduct prayer five times in a day like in their home countries because the country doesn’t provide the times to do so. In Muslim majority countries, governmental, companies or schools provide times for their people to pray at least five minutes during the activity. Furthermore, it is more of a struggle when the country that they live in got attacked from a group of people who did a horrible suicide bombing in the name of Islam.
The fact that the United States as a big nation built from many immigrants has led this country to be a sensitive one for outsiders. It means they need more security since their role as a super power country that leads the world from social-economic aspects to political influence.
If I look at the history of the USA in the past, I can find many tragic events such as civil war (1861–1865) and Pearl Harbor attack (1941). Those events have made nationalism spirit grew up rapidly in Americans society. I can say this as the beginning of the onset of antipathy towards outsiders. The story about discrimination towards Native Americans who actually the first settler, or African-Americans and Latin immigrants is a good example how discrimination thrives in the U.S.
If I look in a mirror towards this background, I understand why Americans can be such that way. At any time some groups of people can attack their country. Moreover, their role in Afghanistan and Iraq war has made this country as a target for some other countries, or some groups of people who don’t like what they did. Then the peak is the 9/11 tragedy when more than three thousand people died. Islam as a religion that the attackers used as their mask of their action got its turn to be discriminated by Americans.
Many people assume that Islam is a cruel religion, allows its followers to kill other people outside their belief. This action is well-known as a holy war in the name of God or jihad. As the reward, people who conduct this action will stay peacefully in heaven. At least that is what the terrorists believe.
Another thing that American people might assume is that Islam is a strict and conservative religion. The role of mass media contributes to bring out these stereotypes.
I take an example from the movie the Kite Runner. In that movie is clearly showed how Muslims threat women, children and the same fellows in a terrible way. As a Muslim, I feel so sad when I watched it. It is not what Islam teaches to me; it is not the religion that I have believed in since I was born. Even so, I cannot deny if there are many kinds of Muslims in this world just like the followers of any other religions. But what the movie has shown is not Muslims in general. Muslims are varying between countries and sects.
If radical Muslims thrive in Middle East countries, for instance Afghanistan, it is because the lives there are already difficult socially and economically. Moreover, the war between Palestine which is majority Muslims, and Israel which is “backed up” by the USA, contribute to cause hatred towards Americans and Israel. That is why radical Muslims are growing up in Islamic countries. But again, personally they are not the real of Muslims. The culture and the tradition where the Muslims were raised influence their behavior. For example in Indonesia, Muslims are moderate and tolerant. Yes some clashes between one ethnicity to the others and one religion to the others are always there.
But at least some of us still respect pluralism; we respect gender equality. That’s why we have a woman as our fifth president. In Indonesia the government admits five other religions besides Islam, and there’s no official religion. All of them have the same rights. The adult women are given to decide whether to wear hijab or not because they know the reward and the punishment by doing so; unless, in a province which follows Sharia Laws or in Islamic-based schools, wearing hijab is an obligation. `
However, the Kite Runner movie is only one out of a bunch of the evidences that show how the media exaggerates Islam and Muslims. It is obvious that the influence of mass media can cause small things to become big ones. Unfortunately, most of us barely look at something deeply. We simply look at it from the surface, or from what the media says. This happens because when we hate something, we barely look at it twice. In other word, the media has been used as an effective tool to cause hatred in the society.
The hatred towards Muslims is getting larger in American society. As I mentioned above, a word “Islamophobia,” it is a word for some group of people who have an irrational fear towards Islam and Muslims. For instance, members of the church in Gainesville, Florida were planning to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 by burning Quran. It is called “the International Burn a Quran Day” which was conducted by the Dove World Outreach Center. Terry Jones as the pastor said that the goals of these protests are to give a chance for Muslims to convert to be Christian. “We are definitely trying to give the message that Jesus Christ is the only way.” He said.
This is not the only event shows about Islamophobia. David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidik Jew and the leading of Islamophobe, founded an organization named SANE (the Society of Americans for National Existence) in 2006. The aim of this organization is to banish Muslims from the US. He proposed the law that everyone who makes adherence to Islam can be punishable by 20 years in prison. Moreover, in February this year, Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron and Representative Judd Matheny introduced similar bill to forbid everyone following Islamic moral code and religious practices such as feet-washing and prayers (Gazhali).
The 9/11 attacks have left a lasting and damaging image not only for American Muslims but also for Muslims in general. They are still fighting stereotypes and other negative images especially in the way they dress up and their name. Arab and American Muslims increasingly feel targeted by negative media portrayals and concerned about profiling. There are still many American Muslims have a story of discriminative treatment ranging from physical attack, a nasty gaze, or burning mosques and Quran (Gazhali).
Americans have become less friendly to Muslims.It is true that someone who has name “Muhammad” or who has long beard will have more difficulty to enter the U.S. It happens in my country Indonesia as the largest Muslims population in the world. For us, the United States is the most difficult country to get in. perhaps it is because there are many Islamist militant organizations that are growing up rapidly in Indonesia.
One of the organizations which hunts for many youth to be their member is Jamaah Islamiyah. They have a relation to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The victims got brainwashing and trained to be a soldier for doing suicide bombing. The reason why they prefer the youth is because they are still young and a critical thinker, so they have a great curiosity.
As a result, terrorism attacks not only happened in America. My country also encountered several terrorism attacks. For instance, Bali bombing I in 2002 caused more than 200 people died, and Bali bombing II in 2005. The target was American or Australian people, but many Indonesian also died in that inhumanity tragedy.
The other examples are Australia Embassy bombing in 2004, J.W Marriot hotel in 2003, the Ritch Carlton and J.W Marriot II in 2009, and the recent is mosque suicide bombing in April 2011. From those tragedies, I can consider them as not Muslims because they also killed Muslims. Which religion that teaches its followers to murder the other, especially to murder people who believe in the same God? So, it is clear that there is a certain goal behind those actions.
I can assume if they want to disunite Indonesian people who are quite plural, and love unity in diversity, the country’s official motto. Therefore, the United States imposes a tight security to people from majority Muslims population countries. For example, people who come from these countries will get a secondary inspection.
It happens because there are many Islamist militant organizations thrive in those countries like I mentioned before. However, I can understand about this matter. Every country has a responsibility to protect their citizens from any kind of threats. The USA has a great responsibility to protect their people from terrorists as they have encountered several terrorism actions. But the problem is the U.S Government imposes the same treatment to all Muslims. It means they still consider all Muslims are the same as them who do suicide bombing.
Nevertheless, talking about terrorism is not as easy as we close our eyes because it is not a simple case. It is about people’s ideology. We have to see this from several sides and aspects. If we simply look at a certain religion, we will not find the answer why people can kill others just to get a ticket to heaven. I do believe if every religion teaches its followers to have a good life, to stay continuously on the right way, to respect and to love each other. So, if some people kill others just to have their own happiness in heaven, and stay comfortably on others’ blood, can those people be categorized as people who believe in religion? One of the reasons that such terrorism actions can happen is because they are over-interpreting the holy book.
Furthermore, they lack of education, they are narrow-minded, and they believe that their people or religion is the best of all. This is the basic concept of what we call racism. If we believe our people are superior and consider others are inferior and worthy to die, it means we are part of them; a group of people who believe that they are the best without noticing that nothing is perfect is this world.
They denied the fact that this world was created to be different. They denied the fact that the God created many kinds of people, many races, and many beliefs. In other word, this is the will of the God if pluralism must exist in this life. So, why should we hate each other? The best way is we mind our own business and respect each other.
Basically we are the same; our blood is red no matter what race we are. Our tears fall down from eyes no matter we are the rich or the poor. We eat the food from the same source, the sun, no matter where we come from.Then the difference in belief is an individual matter. If we assume some people or races are bad, what is the guarantee if we are the best? I am sure they should understand about this if they do believe in God. But their ignorance has closed their heart towards these facts.
One thing that I want to highlight here, Islam never teaches to kill the others, to do such the terrorists has done. Islam is about peace, brotherhood and friendship. If we know Islam well, we will find that this is truly a peaceful religion. Everything that Islam teaches is about how to respect and to love one another. Islam teaches Muslims to contribute in any good ways no matter where they are.
Some American people might argue if Muslims cannot be a loyal American citizen because their faith is conservative and monotheistic, or socially, Islam forbids them to make friend with Christians or Jews. I can say if those arguments are wrong. Islam recognizes Christians and Jews in Quran, Muslims’ holy book. Additionally, Bible is one of four holy books that Muslims must believe in. So, there is a reason why some Muslims hate Jews unless it is related to their hegemony and cruel acts towards Palestinians which are extremely complicated.
Moreover, a verse in Quran says “for you your religion and for me my religion.” It implies that Muslims must respect other beliefs. Some American might also say if Islam has lots of rules to be obeyed by its followers. Yes it is true, but this is life. Everything has the rule. It is created so that humans do not deviate from what they should do. A rule in a school is created so that the students, staff and faculty can walk hand in hand, and the school activities can run well. Why do so many regulations on the road? It is because to avoid many accidents among the motorists. Those are some simple examples of why we should follow lots of rules in this life. They are created not without a reason.
Even so, Muslims will fight someone who harms Islam and Muslims itself. Logically, it makes sense because we have to protect what we believe. When someone hurts us without any reason, will we keep silent? When a country all of sudden attacks our country, will we keep staying at home? I do believe all people will react and protect their belongings, so those are good questions to this analogy.
Nevertheless, what the terrorists have done on behalf of Islam cannot be justified as a protection of what they believe because Islam never teaches to do so. It is clearly a criminal act that we all should fight against. But we also have to think wisely; just because a man of a group does such a bad thing, it doesn’t mean all people in that group have the same perception with him. Again, this is about one’s ideology which is very difficult to be eliminated.
Here, The 9/11 attack can be a good mirror for us to look at each other, and take some self-reflections. Remember that a mirror never tells us a lie, a mirror always tells us the truth of who we are. It is one of the most honest things that we have besides our heart. Keeping a hate feeling and bias in our heart only make our life worse. Our mind will be filled with a bunch of negative thinking. We will feel we must be suspicious of everybody around us. Probably they can attack us at any time.
As a result, it can be a big obstacle to step out our feet to reach what we are dreaming of, having a peaceful world. Terrorism will never disappear from this world as long as a radical ideology grows up rapidly in the human race. However, if we try to avoid hating each other, at least we can avoid ourselves to be a part of those chicken-hearted people.
A friend of mine once said, “Islam is not what you see in your eyes, Islam is not what you have seen on the screens, Islam is not what you have in your mind, but there is something about Islam that you do not know out there. If you want to hate something (someone) make sure that you know it well first then decide your own, hating it or loving it, or just be fair about it (Halim, Haeril).”
Abdus Sattar Ghazali. N.p., Nov. Web. 30 Dec. 2011.
Civil Liberties. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. <http://civilliberty.about.com/od/religiousliberty/g/Islamophobia-Definition.htm>.
Halim, Haeril, Communication Studies Major. Pierce College. Social Networking Website (Facebook). 1 Dec. 2011.
Kent, Tom. “Dove World Outreach Center to Commemorate 9/11 By Burning Qurans.” Huffington Post 28 July 2010. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/28/dove-world-outreach-cente_n_662450.html>.
Pearl Harbor History: Why Did Japan Attack? Eyewitness Accounts, Casualty List, Background. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2011. <www.pearlharbor.org>.
Smith, Natalie. What Happened on 9/11?. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. <http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3756477>.