I've never written about 9/11. Partially because it's a solemn day for personal reflection. A part of me feels a bit of personal guilt because I wasn't directly effected by the great loss of lives. But mostly it's been due to shifting feelings. Today I felt it was time. Enough time of healing has occurred that I felt my observations could be heard with less reactivity.
I don't want to focus on the actual day or my "where was I" narrative. But there is a deep core question that remains festering in my heart of hearts:
Why did the perpetrators hate us so much?
At the time, I had just taken a leave of absence from my theology studies at Seattle University because my mom entered hospice in Chicago. The only person who seemed to have the guts to speak about some core issues was Bill Maher, but he was fired from ABC for his boldness days after the attack. If I was to speak with any coherence on the event, it was clear I needed to learn about the Muslim world. But even with years of studies at SU, the closest I got to the subject was ecumenism which by its very definition, focuses only on discourse within the Christian churches, not on pluralism that would include Islam.
What I did do was slowly learn from different sources about the vastness of Islam, especially from those who had a personal relationship to the culture. Probably my greatest teacher was Tariq Ramadan through his book What I Believe. I listened to various podcasts to get a sense of what was terrorism really was and how did it evolved to the domestic labels we give it today. It's very difficult to separate agendas when you read about this world.
In the end, I feel that this event was sponsored by a group of Islamic literalist-extremists who were funded with a whole lot of money to get their agenda on an international stage. And they succeeded in the one of the most successful & horrific us vs. them displays on national television. I don't believe that "hate" is actually the correct jargon for a group that feels its destiny is holy jihad. In fact, I agree with Bill Maher that it took a certain kind of courage to have been the pilot of one of the planes that crashed into the tower, however misguided it was. But the fact remains, that there will always be an us vs. them in our collective humanity if we are unwilling to discuss in a public forum how much we have in common as a people for a longer time than how we are different.
I encourage you to the listen to this talk by the Oxford Professor Tariq Ramandan on the challenges of Islam through the lens of his book, What I Believe. He is esteemed in his field, and is widely viewed as the Muslim moderate who can most unite a vary disparate group of followers. We need to learn, listen, honor and practice tolerance of the Other from all walks of life, especially the Stranger.
This a conversation that I feel we can have. Discourse that should happen. As Tariq discusses in the above talk, we are in need of a new "we." Everyone deserves to feel that they belong.
1. What questions remain in your heart, not your head, about 9/11?
2. How has your feelings toward Muslims changed or evolved since the 9/11 event?