Director’s Desk: On this 9/11…

This past Saturday, the 20th Anniversary of the attacks on the US on September 11th, 2001, I spoke at the official Philadelphia memorial service for the First Responders — 343 NYC firefighters and paramedics, 23 NYC police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers. They lost their lives attempting to rescue their fellow human beings, rushing into the burning Twin Towers, just as thousands were running out of the soon-to-be collapsing World Trade Center.

The memorial service was organized by the Mayor’s Office, the Philadelphia Fire Department, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, Philadelphia City Council, National Constitution Center, and Fireman’s Hall Museum. That CAIR-Philadelphia was invited to participate and speak at the memorial bears witness to the growing city-wide impact of our chapter throughout the Greater Philadelphia Region. Despite the efforts of anti-Muslim activists, CAIR-Philadelphia, and by extension, the entire American Muslim community, have become an integral part of civic life.  Indeed, although Islamophobia still exists, and the number of Islamophobic instances reported to our office is still on the rise, Islam must now be considered an American religion, replacing the outdated terminology “Judeo-Christian” heritage with the more inclusive “Abrahamic” tradition. Muslims are now to be found in all segments of American society. This will change both Islam and America in the years and decades ahead. But I, for one, believe it will be for the best.


My name is Jacob Bender, and I am the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

With 33 chapters across the country, CAIR – the Council on American Islamic Relations – is the Muslim community’s largest organization, helping to defend the constitutionally protected the civil liberties of all Muslims living in the US.

The criminal and immoral attacks on the US on 9/11 ushered in a period of intense anti-Muslim propaganda in this country, despite the fact that over 300 Islamic organizations around the world condemned the Al-Qaeda attacks. Islam has been falsely depicted in the media as being intrinsically sexist, anti-Semitic, incompatible with democracy, and bent on world domination through the imposition of so-called Shariah Law.

While some may drone on about a so-called “Clash of Civilizations,” what we really see in the post-9/11 world is a “Clash of Ignorance.” On the one side, an extremist fringe-group willfully misinterpreting the teachings of Islam to justify mass-murder. On the other side, ignorant commentators spreading hatred of Muslims across the internet, and power-hungry politicians stereotyping Muslims for purely partisan purposes.

To those who lost loved ones in the attacks, our hearts go out to you still. Even 20 years later, we can say of those taken from you: “May their memory be a blessing.”

We mourn as well those who became victims around the world of our nation’s ill-conceived “War on Terror”, with its violent attacks on the human rights of innocents abroad, and the infringement of the civil liberties of innocents at home.

We find in the Qur’an the following words: “Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good.”

This is the Islam that I know, and as CAIR’s first Jewish executive director, I can openly say, this is the Islam that I love. Our goal is to make religion part of the solution, not part of the problem. So let us come together to condemn injustice, starting with that which we see in our own communities. Only then will we able to look into the eyes of those across the barricade and truly “get to know them.”

“O Humankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

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