The true soldiers of Allah
The True Soldiers of Allah

Muslim Americans at the Crossroads:
Reflections on September 11, 2001

Saraji Umm Zaid, Muslim convert, American, New Yorker shares her experiences of the past days and vents her rage at those Muslims who espouse the ideological agenda of the terrorists who visited such carnage upon her city.

To be honest with you, when I initially sat down to write something for "Islam For Today," I couldn't think of anything to say. Until today, I have been in a state of shock. I live right outside of New York City. For three days, all I heard outside were the sounds of Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, and the sirens of police, fire, and emergency vehicles speeding in and out of the city. We do not have cable, and all of the New York City stations had their broadcast towers knocked out when Tower 1 was hit. We are only able to get one television station, from outside of the city. Until today, Jumu'ah, I have been inside of my home, afraid to go outside (I wear hijab), isolated from the rest of my community. Confirmed reports and unconfirmed rumors of hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus across the country poured into my e-mail box.

When I went outside this morning, I was in shock to see the mall open. People are out shopping? The library called; a book I reserved had come in. I had forgotten that the library would be open. I saw people at the Blockbuster video store, renting movies on a Friday night. Others were going into the movie theater nearby. Until today, I thought the whole world had stopped. The world has gone on.

And that's the point. We, as 1Americans, as Muslims, we have to move forward now. Our society, and our Muslim community here, is at a cross roads. Do we descend into hatred, fear, isolationism, and chaos? Or do we band together, to fight the madness that took more than 4,000 lives on Tuesday? How long can Muslim women stay indoors, in purdah effectively? When will our lives return to normal? It's hard to say. Many children have been orphaned, women and men widowed, parents without children, friends lost. As more and more information about the perpetrators becomes available, it seems more and more likely that hard feelings towards Muslims will prevail for much longer than they did after the first World Trade attack in 1993. It will be a long and hard road for us to fight the hate and fear, and to rebuild the semi-normal conditions that prevailed here until Tuesday.

A journalist asked me today, what did I think of the reactions of non Muslim 1Americans? Rather than focus on the negative, which is reported, which is known, I told him about something ... astonishing that happened to me this week. I received more than 200 e-mails, in one day alone, from 1Americans all over the US -- Christian, Jewish, Atheist, and Pagan -- offering support for Muslim 1Americans, and pledging to stop hate in their own neighborhoods. More than one non Muslim woman of my acquaintance has been inspired to offer her services for shopping and escorts for Muslim women who need to go out and are afraid. A rescue worker and his colleague were on their way home for some rest after hard work at the WTC site called the Sean Hannity radio show to talk about something that happened on the subway today. Five Arab teenage boys got on the train, and the whole car went silent. The boys were looking down at the floor, their heads hanging in shame and fear. Finally, the caller's colleague spoke up,"Hold your heads up! You're 1Americans!" The other travelers in the car burst into applause, and hugs were exchanged between the teens and their fellow 1 Americans.

It is this spirit of generosity and kindness in the American people that makes what happened, and how we react to it all the more important. In the past few days, there have been a very small minority of Muslims in the West (two, by my count, but I'm sure more of them are out there), the kind I think of as the 'Taliban, Taliban, Uber Alles' types, who have claimed to be overjoyed by the attacks, and castigating and "takfeering" any Muslim who dares disagree with their sick and warped sense of joy. The fact that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Muslims work and travel through the World Trade Center everyday is lost on them. The fact that hundreds of them are missing is lost on them. There are no tears for these New York Muslims on their part. Even the Taliban have expressed shock and sadness to reporters. Not so our brothers and sisters in the Religion of Mercy. What Kitab and Sunnah are these people following?

I sit here and look at photographs of the missing. Mother of three, please help us find her. Father of six month old twins, please call. Graduation photos, wedding photos, anniversary photos. Photos from happier times, fishing trips, barbecues, birthdays. All smiles, no sinister sneers in any of these photos of women and men, Black, White, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Indian, Pakistani, Arab, Chinese, Korean. I look at these photos, at the images on TV of relatives and friends wandering through the city, from hospital to hospital, in search of their loved one, and I get angrier and angrier. Not just at the scumbags who hijacked the planes, and the scumbags who helped them, but at these brothers and sisters who are cheering over these deaths.

Allah tells us that if someone innocent is killed, it is as if all of mankind is killed. But He also tell us that if just one is saved, then it is as if all of humanity is saved. (Sura al Ma'ida). Tell me what these stock brokers, teachers, secretaries, newspaper vendors, janitors, waiters, pilots, stewards, and retail clerks had to do with the situation in Kashmir or Palestine or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world? There are children counted among the dead and missing. How were they part of the "Zionist plot" against Muslims? Can we just drop the paranoia and reclaim our humanity here? Would it be too much to ask for these people to shed a tear for the innocent? If the death of one is as if the death of all mankind, then what is the death of thousands of innocents?

It is the generous spirit of the American people that makes us so open to Islam. Even at the height of this crisis, I personally know of one American man that has embraced Islam. Though thousands may turn away from us now, particularly the children and spouses of those killed, how many others will discover something wonderful in their curiosity and their search to understand? If these people can't cry over the terror that was unleashed here on Tuesday, then as "Super Muslims," they should be crying because they did not reach out to those thousands of people with the message of Islam. Instead, they are hiding behind e-mail aliases, and spreading the sort of hate and sickness that propelled 19 men to slam 4 planes into buildings all over the country.

I will be the first to donate to the "Send Me to a Muslim Country" fund, if any of these people start one. Although I think there is something wonderful in making hijra for the sake of Allah subhannahu wa ta'ala, and although there is much good to be found in these countries, it is also often a rude awakening for "Super Muslims" who go overseas expecting to find Jennah on Earth. They will find that where they are free to practice Islam here, to dress as Muslims here, to say whatever they want to say here, over there, Islam is suppressed by these supposedly " Muslim" kings and presidents. Men with beards arrested, women in hijab jailed or denied education. Less radical rhetoric than what I've read today lands you in jail in countries like Egypt and Syria. Praying in Jama'at outside of a state approved masjid lands you in jail in Turkey.

There is more than a hint of hypocrisy in a diatribe that labels American born and residing Muslims as "hypocrites" and "helpmates of the Dajjal," particularly when that diatribe comes spewing out of someone living in the United States or the United Kingdom. It's rather sanctimonious to label American Muslims who pay their taxes (as we are required to do) as being on the verge of kufr because a portion of that tax money goes to support the war machine in another country when you are not only paying those taxes yourself but benefiting from them as well, in the form of highways, trains, parks, sanitation services, and so on.

Not only is it make or break time for 1Americans, but it is make or break time for Muslim 1Americans as well. Do we reject this type of dialogue and radicalism in our communities once and for all, or do we continue to stay silent in the interest of not exposing the skeletons in our closets and presenting a unified front? Can we ask non Muslim 1Americans to repudiate anti Muslim and anti Arab bias while staying silent about those in our own masajid who preach hatred of non Muslims?

Muslim Americans must stand with non Muslim Americans now, not just as citizens and residents of this country, but as human beings. We must reject hatred in all of its forms, whether it is anti Muslim hatred or a hatred for non Muslims that is so deep and twisted that you hijack a plane and slam it into a building.

Allah subhannahu wa ta'ala tells us in Sura al Rum that we will be tested upon saying we believe. What happened on Tuesday has presented Muslim Americans with a clear test. No one is saying that the coming weeks, months, or even years will be easy. Yes, people will say mean and rude things to us. Yes, some of our masajid will be defaced, and some of us will be physically attacked. I guarantee you that nothing we are going through right now even compares to the trials of our beloved Nabi (sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam) and the early Muslims. Keep their struggles in your mind as you venture out to the grocery store. Remember Sumayah, the first martyr of Islam, when someone tells you to "Go back where you came from!" You have been called up, you have been drafted into what may be the biggest jihad of your life. Remember the promise of Allah and His Messenger (sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam) and keep on keeping on.

I am Muslim, I am American, I am a New Yorker, and I am not a terrorist.


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