9/11 Anniversary and what lesson can we learn?

9/11 Anniversary and what lesson can we learn?

The anniversary of 9/11should be observed as reflection and introspection of causes of such tragedy. Terrorism is an enemy to all people because it takes away untimely innocent lives. It should be the day of unity, harmony and prayers coupled with firm determination to root out the causes of terrorism.

However what do we witness in US? This year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was probably the most political and contentious ever, because of a proposed Islamic Centre (Cordova Centre) and mosque near Ground Zero and a Florida pastor’s plan to burn the Holy Qur’an.

As in other years, official ceremonies took place at the three locations the terrorists struck, killing nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. ( in New York, 2,752 people were killed when planes hit into the twin towers of the World Trade Center).

U.S. President Barack Obama attended a commemoration at the Pentagon, while Vice-President Joe Biden attended the ceremony at Ground Zero.

First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush travelled to Shanksville — where a plane crashed amid a struggle between hijackers and passengers — to observe the ninth anniversary there.
Speaking at the Pentagon, President Barack Obama has told a deeply polarised America that Islam is not the enemy and said: “As Americans, we will not and never will be at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was Al-Qaeda,” Obama said, urging Americans not to succumb to “hatred and prejudice”.
He also urged to reflect on the fact that there are millions of Muslims who are American citizens, that they also are fighting in U.S. uniforms in Afghanistan, and “we don’t differentiate between ‘them’ and ‘us.’ It’s just ‘us.’ “

Earlier Obama said a plan by Terry Jones, the pastor of a small, independent church in Gainesville, Florida, to mark Sept. 11 by burning copies of the Qur’an must be taken seriously because it could cause “profound damage” to U.S. troops and interests around the world. “You don’t play games with that,” Obama said, adding that as commander in chief he had an obligation to respond.

Jones’ daughter, Emma, said in an interview with the German news website Spiegel Online that she begged him in an email, “Papa, don’t do it,” but he didn’t answer. She said she hasn’t had contact with him since 2008, when he was ousted by members of a church he had founded in Cologne, Germany.

Jones who had been under pressure from the White House and Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on 9th September he had called it off and wanted to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has been leading an effort to build the Islamic centre and mosque near Ground Zero. Rauf said in a statement 10th September had no plans to meet with Jones, although he is open to seeing anyone “seriously committed to pursuing peace.”

Along with the formal ceremonies, activists for and against the proposed Islamic centre had their own events to capture the emotion of the day for political purposes. Nowhere do emotions run higher than in New York, where the proposed Islamic centre just two blocks north of Ground Zero had inflamed passions before the planned commemoration.

The protests against the Cordova Community Centre (reportedly known as Islamic centre) near Ground Zero demonstrate that interfaith dialogue which is essential to create an environment where tolerance and recognition of freedom of worship by all has been missing. It manifests gross lack of understanding of the essence of all religions—living in peace, amity and love towards another person.

Islam is a religion of peace and the word comes from a cognate to “shalom” which means peace in Hebrew. Furthermore the word “ Islam” not only means peace but also total submission to Almighty God. In Islam, the God is not only a Lord and Cherisher but a Lord whose glory is mercy, peace and harmony (Surah 36:Ya-Sin: Verse 58 of the Holy Qu’ran).

Surah Nisa (IV) : Verse 993 of the Holy Qur’an proclaims:

“ If a man kills a Believer
Intentionally, his recompense
Is Hell, to abide therein
For ever.”

The proposal of setting up the Cordova Centre, near the Ground Zero, as reported in the media, is not solely an Islamic Centre but a shared space for community activities where Christians, Muslims and Jews will have their separate prayer spaces. The Cordova Centre will also reportedly include a multi-faith memorial dedicated to the victims of 9/11 attacks.

The name “Cordova”, a city of Spain, has been given because in the Middle Ages Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in a highly sophisticated tolerant cultural environment of the rule of Muslims in Cordova. The citizens of Cordova—Arab Muslims, Christians, and Jews, enjoyed a high a degree of harmony among themselves.

Lost amid the protests is the purpose of the Cordova Centre near the Ground Zero. The efforts by extremists and radicals at distortion tend to continue unnecessary clash between the West and the Muslim world.

Former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad at the 2003 Islamic Summit in Kuala Lumpur said: “ The Muslim Ummah is divided and divided again and again. Over the last 1400 years the interpreters of Islam, the learned ones, the Ulemas have interpreted and reinterpreted the single Islamic religion brought by Prophet Muhammad (SAW), so differently that now we have a thousand religions which are often so much at odds with one another that we often fight and kill each other.”

We need to shift the paradigm and build on the positive momentum from leaders to interpret Islam to attain its essence and glory. This will enable to heal relations among people of different faiths and bring peace to the world..

To strengthen and counter the radical ideology, we need to understand the essence of Islam and it requires joint multi-faith and multinational dialogue and effort. This is the lesson, in my view, we can learn from 9/11 anniversary.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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