“Today, Our Nation Saw Evil,” “America’s Darkest Day” and “Terror” are some of the newspaper headlines that came out following the tragedy that happened on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists took down the World Trade Center’s twin towers, destroying a New York City landmark and nearly 3,000 people’s lives. This is how the nation felt in the immediate aftermath and has felt every year since Sept. 11.
Unfortunately, our beloved nation took revenge on its own soil. Hijabs were pulled off Muslim women at work. Muslim men were beaten mercilessly in the streets. Muslim children were threatened, bullied and even forced to leave school. And it was all because of the label “Muslim.” New labels were invented, like “Islamic terrorism,” “Muslim terrorists,” “Jihadists,” “Holy War.” The list goes on.
The headlines are true. It was a devastating time for America, a country that experienced true evil. But some were blinded to see that we, Muslims, were hurting for the nation too. Our home, our city, our everything was attacked, but we were punished for having the wrong label.
It’s 2018 and I am a Muslim student at Temple University, living in the city I was born and raised. I still work hard with my community every day to show the world the true teachings of Islam: peace, tolerance and love. I still face the Islamophobia that ignited 17 years ago. But I do so with an understanding smile — humbly and patiently explaining my religion and its true teachings. We strive to make our label a source of pride and a symbol of justice.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whose slogan is “Love for All, Hatred for None,” has several national campaigns that strive to spread the true meaning of the Muslim religion. One of them, Muslims for Life, was launched in 2011. Every year around the anniversary of 9/11, the campaign calls for hundreds of blood drives all over the country, demonstrating that the only blood we are willing to shed as Muslims is to save lives.
To date, the Muslims for Life blood drive campaign has saved more than 118,000 lives by the grace of Allah.
Another campaign, of many, is Muslims for Loyalty. Islam requires us to be loyal and faithful citizens to our country. For me, this is America. The political climate today demands that Muslims strive day in and out to preserve our label, despite the renaming it has been fighting for 17 years.
These campaigns are to defend our faith from Islamophobia, which is rooted in that dreadful day.
On this anniversary, I request we all remember the blessed lives lost without any bigotry; that we pray for our fellow brothers and sisters who we all loved. I hope and pray that all those who help us protect our label have success in every regard. May Allah protect us all. May He guide those in power and save the oppressed. May He give us understanding.
God, Bless America.