Nine years ago, a ghastly event, one in which the inconceivable became a reality, took place in New York City and changed America forever. This horrific event not only introduced America to its formidable adversary, but also destroyed the sense of security amongst its people.
Even though 9/11 took place almost a decade ago, the repercussions of the attack continue to be seen in the form of anti-Islamic sentiment and apprehension towards Muslims. Attempting to improve this country’s relationship with the Islamic world, President Barack Obama vowed for “a new beginning” during a speech he gave in Cairo last year. However, some Americans aren’t supportive of such a positive new beginning, as the devastating aftermaths of 9/11 have yet to come to an end.
Islamic extremism is at the heart of what America fears, but with regards to recent events that have taken place like the alleged arson of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and the proposed Koran burning in Gainesville, Fla., it seems as though extremism no longer solely pertains to Islam. Muslims are now feeling unease as violent and irreverent opposition towards their religion is emerging all over the nation.
The controversy surrounding the mosque in Murfreesboro parallels the dispute occurring in New York. over the proposed Islamic center to be built near ground zero. Since Murfreesboro is at the center of the Bible Belt, it’s not surprising that resistance to the expansion of the long-standing mosque resulted in vandalism and alleged arson damaging four pieces of construction equipment and halting construction.
Though New York hasn’t yet resorted to any known acts of anti-Islamic vandalism or violence, 67 percent of them want the proposed Islamic complex to be moved to another location out of compassion for those affected by the 9/11 tragedy, even though they believe in the First Amendment right of Muslims to build an Islamic center where they please, according to a New York Times poll.
Terry Jones, a Pentecostal pastor in Gainesville, Fla., had been planning to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11. However, after the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and President Obama appealed to him not to do so in fear of Islamic extremists retaliating, especially against the troops still in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jones called off the Koran burning and even agreed to meet with the imam charged with building the Islamic center near ground zero hoping to reach a compromise.
Adding to the enduring friction between Muslims and the rest of the country was how the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, coincided with the anniversary of 9/11 in many places. This holiday called Eid is usually celebrated by feasting and socializing. Though Muslims were hesitant to celebrate this year, because of it seeming like they were celebrating 9/11. Many mosques around the U.S. cancelled Eid celebrations to alleviate animosity.
Though it’s difficult for many Americans to put the 9/11 tragedy out of their minds, especially in the wake of its anniversary last Saturday, it must not be forgotten, according to President Obama, that, “This is America and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
In the face of the hatred and fear saturating the nation, it’s important to remember that whatever one’s religion, we’re all Americans.
(Published in The Concord Sept. 14, 2010)