It's 9/11 again. Every year as this day comes around the country takes a deep breath and remembers. As a nation we remember where we were and what we were doing, just like we have remembered where we were when Kennedy was shot and when the attack came on Pearl Harbor.
When we think of the Kennedy assassination we know that it was accomplished by one person (or maybe a group acting as part of a conspiracy). But we don't blame everyone who ever lived in Russia as the assassin did, or everyone who ever belonged to the communist party as the assassin did. True, at the time we really didn't trust Russia or Communists, but we didn't blame them all for the killing of our President. We put the blame for that act squarely on Lee Harvey Oswald (and maybe some co-conspirators).
The attack on Pearl Harbor, on the other hand, was immediately and rightly blamed on the government of Japan and called a deliberate act of war between nations. Sadly, we also blamed all Japanese and persons of Japanese descent, rounding them up and placing them in internment camps. Today we realize that was a bad thing, but at the time people were afraid and not thinking right. So we treated innocent American citizens as enemies of the State. To a slightly lesser degree, we are repeating that bad behavior toward our fellow Americans today.
In the wake of 9/11 it became absolutely clear that the attacks were the work of a particular group of terrorists who used a most radical and distorted version of Islam to justify their actions. We realized very quickly that there was no nation behind the terrorism, but that small groups of these radicals had sworn to destroy America and her allies. They chose targets that were exemplars of her power as a financial and military world leader. They didn't choose particularly Christian targets. Indeed, if Christianity had been the target they would have chosen one of the internationally famous mega-churches and killed many more people. Instead they chose targets filled with people of all races, nations, religions and ages - a cross section of America.
Somehow, however, that knowledge has become fuzzy. Somehow we have begun to think that Islam is the enemy, or that this particular view of Islam is mainstream. That makes no more sense than for the rest of the world to think that Pastor Terry Jones is a shining example of mainstream American and/or Christian thought. Terrorists are people who choose to use or threaten to use violence to bring attention to themselves or their cause. Osama bin Laden is a terrorist. In my opinion, so is Pastor Terry Jones.
Somehow our fear of that which is different has caused otherwise intelligent people to believe that Islam is dangerous, that the main thrust of the religion is the violent takeover of the world. Just yesterday an otherwise well informed person told me that Moslems are required to kill people if they can't convert them. Like so many other things people believe about Islam, this just is not true. Yes, the Qur'an can be used to justify just about any kind of behavior, but so can our Bible. The vast majority of Moslems in America and worldwide are ordinary peace-loving people trying to live the best they can. They are not terrorists. They are not trying to take over the world. Meanwhile my Moslem friends are more afraid of their neighbors today than they were right after 9/11.
Today, September 11, 2010, has been designated "Read the Qur'an Day" by many Christian leaders. I invite you to do that. If you don't have a copy you can find one online. If you have an iPhone, there's an app for that. Join one of the groups gathering to read the Qur'an today. Find a peace march or an interfaith gathering to be part of. At the very least, take some time today to pray for those you don't understand.
Peace - Shalom - Salaam