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Published On: Saturday 19 Jun, 2010
By: Muhamad Ali

The ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the planned Muslim cultural center near ground zero, the planned burning the Qur’an day, the Eid al-Fitr celebration ending the fasting month of Ramadan this year, all have put many Muslims in America and around the world in a predicament and made them redefine their identity.

The 9/11 tragedy has influenced many people from various walks of life. A Christian Arab may be mistaken for a Muslim. A Sikh was attacked for wearing his turban.

An Indonesian visiting or returning to the United States whose name is common but Arabic may experience extra scrutiny by the department of Homeland Security. Mosques, churches and houses of worship may be filled with sermons expressing contradictory views, memories and feelings about the tragedy and about each other.

Ordinary chats and social network discussions about the tragedy and its aftermath take different directions, many becoming more literate, and others confirming their prejudices. For Muslims, living in this global village would be much different if no 9/11 had ever occurred.

Today, as in the past, human relationships are full of conflict and tension as well as dialogue and cooperation. People often need a trigger for increased tension, or for dialogue and cooperation.

That trigger could be big, small, near, or far, but because of increased ways of communication, people may be affected immediately by what’s happening in other parts of the world. Those 19 people who attacked the World Trade Center nine years ago were not directly related to other Arabs, other Muslims, other individuals.

They are not linked to Muslim politicians, educators, artists, or others, in many parts of the world, but everyone has become a stakeholder of that attack: for better or worse.

The planned Muslim center, the current status of which is not clear, provides opposing arguments: religious freedom and American identity versus religious freedom and sensitivity to the horror and the many victims.

For the supporters, building the center near the sacred space would demonstrate Muslim New Yorkers’ outreach to other faiths and ideologies. For them, near Ground Zero would be a good site for raising awareness about moderate Islam and Muslims.

The supporters argue that the center would not become a haven for extremism, anti-Americanism, but instead a space for moderation and dialogue. Jewish and Christian leaders support the building.

However, the opponents argue that the plan jeopardizes the sense of atrocity committed by a group associated with Islam. For them, Islam is responsible for 9/11. There is little change in their view after nine years.

Not only that. The pastor in Florida advocates the burning of the Koran on that day. Many have mailed Korans to be burned there. They dub Islam as the “religion of the devil” and the Koran as “the book of terror”.

On the other hand, Jewish, Christian, and interfaith forums demonstrate their support for Muslims struggling for recognition and acceptance in American society. Many are simply ignoring the invitation.

Others, many being non-Muslims, feel insulted by such senseless plan.

There were already acts of ignorance, if not attacks and insults directed toward the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad(P) in his day. Later, several European authors in medieval times charged Muhammad with being the Antichrist, with heresy and insanity.

Today, many still write about it; some call the Qur’an the source of evil. In American schools and colleges, and public places, Koranic studies and Islamic studies attended by multifaith students and audiences have developed in ways that are balanced. Attempts continue to increase awareness about the Qur’an, Muhammad and Islam.

For many, it is increasingly difficult to live as an observant Muslim today, but for others it is easier now than before because of communication technology and globalization.

Many Muslims are worried about their own security but, at the same time, they should show empathy toward the victims of the attacks and their families. Many Muslims are expected to be tolerant of others when part of the others continues to show prejudice toward them.

To a great extent, because of 9/11, Muslims are increasingly diverse and dynamic: some still categorize Muslims as the liberal, the moderate, and the conservative (the hard-liners being part of them), using how they react to the event and how they respond to modernity and tradition.

Being Muslim today varies from place to place, but 9/11 seems to have influenced the way Muslims redefine their identity in relation to America. There is no way to define Muslims with one, monolithic characteristic.

Interests and perceptions about Islam and Muslims increase in both positive and negative ways, but one thing is quite sure: Being Muslim today is different from being Muslim before 9/11.

There are choices to be made: To continue in goodness and wisdom, or to become reactionary and violent, perpetuating others’ ignorance and prejudice that have long prevailed. Explaining Islam

Muhamad Ali, Ph.D., teaches Islam and religion at the University of California, Riverside.

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Category: Op-Ed
  • Gravatar

    muhammad 'abd-al haqq

    4:52 pm
    19 Jan
    2011

    i talk about a crisis of Muslim identity on my blog. In the post 9/11 world it is crucial to understanding this issue.

    Allahu A’lam

  • Gravatar

    Kyle

    1:34 pm
    5 Mar
    2011

    This is an interesting article. Imagine what the “predicament” is like for Christians trying to practice in the Arab world. They are routinely arrested and tortured. Now I am not an overly spiritual person. I consider myself more of an academic. That being said, I see a plethora of writing about the perceived “intolerance” in America while everyone seems to turn a blind eye to the complete intolerance and bigotry practiced all over the Middle East/North Africa region.

    Now onto the mosque: I live in NYC. I can tell you that though the horrors of 911 have faded in the mind of many in this country, they are still extremely strong in the minds of NYers. I know that the extremists don’t represent the religion as a whole; I understand that. But if this really was meant to be an act of moderate Islam, why wouldn’t the developers see the powder keg they are about to light and willingly move it? Whether those terrorists were a representative of true Islam or not, they did do what they did in the name of Islam. The negative publicity that this project brings should cause someone who is really acting in “moderation” to seriously reconsider. If it is merely going to be “a space for moderation and dialogue,” then why does it need to be at that site? Why not move it to mid-town? Moderation does not want to open a fresh would in the mind of the indifferent. This project is breeding contempt for Islam in demographics where it did not exist before. It already has, and w9ill continue to have, much more of a negative impact on a whole than whatever possible positive impact that it could hope to achieve.

    I am a non-practicing christian. I am looking at this from an objective standpoint. I have a degree in Middle East Studies. From a logical standpoint there is very little chance that this project is as benign as we are lead to believe. If it was truly an olive branch to open dialog then the developers would never have even considered this location.