by Jacob Bender, Executive Director
Exactly 18 years ago today on that late summer morning, the Al-Qaeda attacks on New York City and Washington DC changed forever the relationship between the United States and the Ummah, the worldwide Muslim community numbering some 1.8 billion human beings.
American Muslims faced their own challenges in the months and years after 9/11, as a cottage industry of professional Islamophobes filled the airwaves and internet with anti-Muslim hate-speech, with so-called “public intellectuals” rushing to any microphone they could find to proclaim that the attacks of Sept. 11th were part of an epic “Clash of Civilizations” between the freedom-loving West and a despotic Muslim East bent on world domination, the return of the Caliphate, and the “shariaization” of American life.
It would take the sinister machinations of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld of the George W. Bush Administration to militarize the post-9/11 anti-Muslim zeitgeist by combining it with the search for the (non-existent) Weapons of Mass Destruction, leading America into the worst foreign policy blunder in the nation’s history. Looking back at the human carnage and geopolitical disaster wrought by the American invasion of Iraq, you might conclude that there were no heroes to be found in this quagmire.
You would be wrong, however.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (PT) was started by ten families who found each other through the internet in the months and years after Sept. 11, 2001. Having lost loved ones on that fateful day – mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons – they were also desperate that they not lose their morality as well by allowing, through their complicit silence, the Bush Administration to justify the American War in Iraq by invocating the unrelated deaths of those who died on 9/11. And indeed, “Our grief is not a cry for war” became one of the rallying cries of the new group.
PT has grown over the years to include over 250 member families, with new members now joining who were small children and infants when their parent(s) were killed. Major activities of PT include:
- Traveling to Guantanamo to protest the American abandonment of the “rule of law” in the sham trials;
Lending the organization’s moral weight in a campaign against Islamophobia;
- Speaking in high schools, colleges, and churches, synagogues, and mosques about their individual journeys from devastating grief to reconciliation;
- Screenings of the film “In Our Sons Name” that documents the friendship between a New York family whose son died in the ruins of the World Trade Center and the mother of one of the Al-Qaeda hijackers.
The PT members I have had the honor of meeting have impressed me with their moral courage and commitment to peace, justice, and nonviolence. It is important for the Muslim community to know that in these unsettling days of watchlists and travel bans, forced family separations and the internment of children in detention camps, and the spewing of bigotry and hatred by the current occupant of The White House, American Muslims do not stand alone.