Religion Dispatches posts the reflections of four New York Muslims on the occasion of the anniversary of 9/11, and in honor of the end of Ramadan. They think about piety, patriotism, the courage and goodness of New Yorkers, and the horrific event that has shaped a generation of American Muslim life.
Hussein Rashid: September 11, 2001. The day I became Muslim.
That’s a lie. I am now a Muslim. I was not always. America made me Muslim.
I was born into a Muslim family. Like all good children of immigrants, I rebelled. By the time I was 16, I was a firm Marxist, rejecting religion as an opiate of the masses. In college, two things happened: identity politics and a good liberal arts education. In high school, I was me, with all my multi-faceted parts a congruous whole that my friends, whom I had known for years, accepted and understood. In college, I had to choose one part of me to define me. I was being made Muslim. But then I took an Introduction to Islam course, taught by a former Jesuit priest of Syrian descent. Intellectually, I learned more about Islam in that semester than I had up until that point in my life. That’s when I knew I could be Muslim. I became Muslim.
Zeba Iqbal: The right question
On October 19, 2008, General Colin Powell endorsed then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama for President. During this interview with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, General Powell spoke of his disappointment with the Republican Party and their ‘allegations’ that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. He went on to say:
…the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?...This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
Ameena Meer: One More Muslim for Peace.
I never felt like Muslim values – tolerance, compassion, generosity, honesty – were at odds with American ones. My elders often told us that the United States was the ONLY true Muslim country, the only place that really lived up the those values. I believed that. I still do.
While the anti-Muslim sentiment seems to be increasing in this country, in my neighborhood, I feel empathy and support. I wear my ONE MORE MUSLIM FOR PEACE T-shirt to pilates and people smile at me as they pass me on the street. My daughters feel proud to speak at a crowded, angry community board meeting. The day that the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted against adding 51 Park Place to the historic register and Bloomberg gave his speech on Governors’ Island, I walked into my swimming pool and all my friends — Jewish, Hindu, and Christian — started cheering. “You did it, Ameena! You’re going to build that community center!”
Ramadan is when I feel most clearly connected to the Divine. Since I am recovering from cancer treatments, for me, Ramadan means fasting from anger, from my temper. It means feasting on love, caring and compassion. It’s so funny because here it is September again, the time when all of us living downtown look at the clear blue skies and wonder.
Haroon Moghul: How Far is it to Islam?
We spent the first Monday evening of my senior year plastering every dorm we could with fliers for the Islamic Center at NYU’s first event of the year. We slipped into the dorms we couldn’t get signed into, and posted hundreds of cheap notices printed on 8.5 x 11 paper. We’d invited a prominent imam to speak and ordered a delicious dinner, convinced that the perpetually elastic undergraduate stomach would be the gateway to the soul.
The next morning, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were struck, thousands were murdered, New York City went into lockdown and our community was sent reeling. Every generation has its shaping event and, for ours, that was an impossibly beautiful Tuesday morning. September 11th put an end to the long 1990s when, as it is nearly inconceivable to imagine today, the biggest problem in our post-Communist, unipolar world seemed to be Monica Lewinsky.