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|"I'm Not the Enemy" By Reshma Memon Yaqub|
|09/16/01 at 23:22:28|
|The American Muslim Council encourages everyone to send letters to the editor of the Washington Post thanking the Post for publishing Reshma Yaqub's article titled "I'm Not The Enemy." This same article was published today in Newsday. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This way, newspapers will understand that Muslims appreciate this type of coverage. The article is|
The Washington Post
"I'm Not the Enemy" By Reshma Memon Yaqub
Thursday, September 13, 2001;
The horror is unspeakable. Like every American, I am paralyzed by the carnage on the news, on our streets. My head pounds, thinking of the grief engulfing thousands of families whose loved ones were killed or injured Tuesday. When I close my eyes, I see bodies tumbling from the
windows of skyscrapers.
As the attack unfolded, I panicked, racing through what until this moment had felt like a safe, suburban neighborhood to find my son and his babysitter, who were playing, as usual, at a nearby park. I begged my husband, who was at work in a prominent Washington building, to come home. With the phone lines going in and out, I felt sure that it just wasn't over. Like every American, I am afraid. Wondering what this means for us. Wondering whether it's over, or when
and where the next attack will take place. It's the first time I've felt the kind of fear I imagine that people in other countries feel when they are at war.
Like every American, I am outraged. And I want justice. But perhaps unlike many other Americans, I'm feeling something else too. A different kind of fear. I'm feeling what my 6 million fellow American Muslims are feeling -- the fear that we too will be considered guilty
in the eyes of America, if it turns out that the madmen behind this terrorism were Muslim. I feel as though I've suddenly become the enemy of two groups -- those who wish to hurt Americans, and those Americans who wish to strike back. It's a frightening corner to be in. In the past, when lone Muslims have committed acts of terrorism -- or have been mistakenly assumed to be guilty, as in Oklahoma City -- hate crimes have abounded against American Muslims who look like they're from "that part of the world," against American mosques, against American children in Muslim schools who pray to the same peace-loving God as Jews and Christians.
I am now not just afraid, as we all are, for our safety as Americans. I am also afraid for the safety of my sisters-in-law, who wear head scarves in public, and I implore them not to walk alone in the streets of our hometown. I am afraid for my brother, a civil rights lawyer who defends Muslims in high-profile discrimination cases. I am afraid to hear people openly state that Muslim blood is worthless and deserves to be spilled, as I heard when I was in college during the Persian Gulf War. I am afraid that my son won't understand why strangers aren't smiling at him the way they used to. I am afraid that we will be dehumanized because of our skin color, or features, or clothing. My heart aches each time a friend or relative calls, CNN
blaring in the background, and sadly reminds me, "It's over for us now. Muslims are done for." I was briefly heartened to hear author Tom Clancy, interviewed on CNN, explaining that Islam is a peaceful religion and that we as Americans must not let go of our ideals of religious tolerance, because it's the way our country behaves when it's been hurt that really reflects who we are. Still, I'm afraid that Americans might view the televised images of a few misguided
and deeply wounded people overseas celebrating the pain that America is now feeling, and will assume that I too must share that anti-American sentiment, that I, or my family, or my community, or my religion, could be part of the problem. In fact, every major American Muslim organization has decried this violence against us all. In fact, Islam forbids such acts of violence. In fact, all the Muslims I know cringe at the idea of our faith being used, abused, in the name of political agendas. And though I, like other Americans, want the perpetrators brought to justice, I shudder to think of the innocent lives that may be unnecessarily lost overseas in that pursuit. Children like ours. Mothers like us. Every time I hear of an act of
terrorism, I have two prayers. My first is for the victims and their families. My second is, please don't let it be a Muslim. Because unlike when an act of terrorism is committed by a Christian or a Jew, when it is a Muslim, it's not considered an isolated act perpetrated by an isolated group of madmen. The entire faith is characterized as barbaric, as inhuman. And, my fellow Americans, I stand before you, as broken as you are, to tell you that it's not. That we
are not. That we Muslims love our country as you do, and that we are bleeding and grieving alongside you.
Reshma Memon Yaqub is a journalist who lives in Montgomery County. © 2001 The Washington Post
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