Every September 11th, since 2001, many recall the tragic events of that day in New York City and in rural Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. There is no question of the tragedy and loss of life that occurred on that day and there are generations of people who will continue to remember the date and where exactly they were on that date. In similar fashion, there are generations of people who will never forget the event that occurred on December 7th, 1941 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
That being said, what adds even more darkness to these specific dates was the racially motivated hysteria and racism and hatred that resulted from the tragedies. We as a people responded to tragedy with raw, unchecked, irrational hatred. As a response to Pearl Harbor, Americans lashed out against Japanese Americans and U.S. residents with Japanese heritage. We incarcerated 110,000 legal citizens without charges, due process, or legitimate cause to concentration camps for the duration of World War II on the presumed suspicion that they were possible traitors to the country, aiming to commit acts of sabotage– and the reasoning then was based upon their appearance. They looked like the enemy, therefore, they were the enemy. Never mind that 75% of those interned in camps were children under the age of 18.
Which brings me to reflect on the hysteria that was mounted almost immediately after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 with regards to hatred and violence targeting Muslim Americans and U.S. residents of Muslim, Arab, or Persian heritage. The general consensus was ( and appears to be persistent today) is that all Muslims are closeted terrorists waiting for their moment to strike or that Islam is inherently evil in that it somehow promotes radicalism and anti-American fervor and condones and encourages terrorism. Americans jumped to the conclusion that all Muslims are responsible for the events of 9/11 based on false stereotyping, racism, xenophobia, and this notion that somehow religion had played a part in these murderers conducting acts of mass murder.
You would think that by 2015 we would have grown a little bit wiser and more enlightened to realize that we cannot jump to conclusions and that there is no true religion organized or otherwise that would condone acts of murder or mass destruction or terrorism. Mainstream Islam is not supportive of terrorism or murder. We cannot jump to the conclusion that because of some radicals who simply want to kill people in the name of Islam, all Muslims are terrorists. Just as we cannot assume that because Westboro Baptist Church is picketing veteran funerals and Pride parades that all Baptists or Christians are against veterans and gays and lesbians and the LGBT community.
Truth is, there are a few rotten eggs purposefully hijacking religion to serve an agenda and use religion as some kind of tool or weapon to justify their actions and schemes. They don’t follow Islam or Christianity anymore than a cinder block can be consumed like apple sauce. These terrorists do not represent their religions and their religions do not represent terrorism.
Yet we allow our passions to get the best of us and we are quick to blame and quick to point fingers and jump on patriotic band wagons no matter how misguided they may be– because we desire to feel better quickly and heal quickly and seek quick justice (or truthfully– it is revenge of the ‘Eye for an Eye’ variety).
We forget the power of forgiveness and loving our neighbors and enemies in our incredible grief. We forget ourselves and our own compassion and humanity when it is taken from us or threatened or clouded by destruction and massive amounts of loss. But God gave us brains and hearts and we are expected to use them. There is no sin that can’t be forgiven (except to blaspheme the Holy Spirit)… hopefully in time, America will check itself and realize the sins of racial hatred and hysteria driven stereotyping can be just as destructive for generations to come. Blaming the innocent for the sins of the truly guilty makes no sense and blaming religion for the acts of murderers bent on their own personal agendas of creating terror is not fair to mainstream religion. The moment you hear someone killing or acting out violently in the name of God or Allah should immediately set red flags in your head that it isn’t about religion, but about someone who holds hatred in their heart and is coming from a place not of religion, but of some other issue.