Top 5 Teachable Moments: The 10th “Anniversary” of 9/11

This is a tough post for me to write.  It is nearly impossible to imagine that it has been a decade since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  As a native New Yorker, going back to that day is painful, traumatizing, scarring.  Clearly, this is not exclusive to New Yorkers – people all over the world felt a range of emotions after the attacks.  Yet, I would describe my feelings about how I’ve seen Islam distorted since that day using similar words – I have felt, at times, as if I have been watching a slow and gut wrenching slaughter of a people. I have spent much of my time since 9/11 responding to those days since that event with teachable moments.  Here are some suggestions for teachable moments to memorialize this day:

1)  Create a day of gratitude: One of my strongest memories of the days after 9/11 was how incredibly supportive and loving people were toward each other in NY.  People smiled at each other, reached out to help a stranger, and donated blood to the Red Cross.  No one asked whether you were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc.  Reminding people of our humanity by creating a day of gratitude for all we do have is a perfect way to change the counter narrative about that day.  We lost thousands of lives that day, and as a result of that tragedy, we managed to find a heck of a lot of humanity. Let’s find a way to recapture that. Remind people of our common humanity.  Perhaps it is through setting up a blood drive or creating an interfaith picnic on the quad? After all, we all bleed and we all need to eat! Figure out what works for your campus or community and make it happen.

2)  Create dialogue through film:

Budrus: This is an excellent documentary that illustrates the hope and non-violent movement of Muslims (in Palestine.) It is an excellent counter narrative to the myth that all Muslims and Palestinians are terrorists. It is also a shining example of Israelis and Palestinians working together and breaking down stereotypes of each other. Link to an interview with Nadav Greenberg, the Outreach Coordinator for Just Vision (who made the film.)

Crossing Borders Film: I have written extensively about this film. I firmly believe it is the most effective tool to create dialogue about Islam.  Arnd Wächter, the film’s Director, will be in the US this fall for screenings.  Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about how to set up a screening with Arnd.

3)  Bring in a speaker to create dialogue about Islam:

Here are three wonderful Melibee Global speakers who briefly mention 9/11 in their presentations, but more importantly, talk instead about the true fabric of Muslims in our world:

a) 30 Mosques:  Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, the co-founders of 30 mosques are available for campus events.  They spent Ramadan 2010 and 2011 traveling to 30 states (each trip!) sharing stories of every day life of diverse Muslim communities in the US.  Feedback about their presentation has been unprecedented. What they accomplish in changing the minds and hearts of others about Muslims in America is the stuff that peace prizes are made of. This year, their trip has been covered by the BBC, Huffington Post, Travel and Leisure, CNN International, Al Jazeera (English) and a documentary is in the works about their epic journey.

b) Ibrahim Abdul-Matin:  Author of “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet” is the best lesson in sustainability AND redirecting the dialogue to more timely issues than 9/11.  He brilliantly reminds us to talk about “water” when someone asks about 9/11.  Invite them for a glass of water  – which is a much more critical political issue in our world today.  Kudos Ibrahim!

c) Nury Turkel:  Nury is new to the Melibee “family” but very well versed on speaking publicly about the human rights violations of the minority Muslim Uyghur (pronounced)”Wee-Ger” population in Northwest China.  He does a brilliant job of explaining how politics landed innocent Uyghurs in Guantanamo Bay and how the Chinese policies have attempted to destroy the Uyghur culture.

(Reach out to Melibee Global at [email protected] if you’re interested in any of these, or any other speakers, for your organization’s events.)

4) Create an opportunity for reflection AND create an opportunity to feel proud:

We should lower our flags that morning and honor those who died.  We should think about their lives and their legacies.  We should thank our local fire departments and police for the services that they so unselfishly provide to our communities.  And we should also create opportunities for those who are Muslim to feel proud of their faith, as it was not their faith that killed others that day, it was a group of terrorists who did so.  I have observed Muslim students and friends in this country shying away from feeling pride for their faith and it pains me deeply. Imagine if every time you were asked about your religious beliefs, you had to defend it? That is what many of our Muslim friends continue to experience. Imagine if people looked at you oddly because you choose to wear a cross or yarmulke? Women who choose to cover their heads are often being stared at, assumptions are often made about oppression. Use this anniversary to shift the tide by creating an opportunity for Muslims to celebrate their faith, which promotes peace.  Work with your campus Muslim Student Association and your interfaith dialogue community to find an appropriate way to celebrate all religions instead of having to defend them on this important day. Many Muslim students who have heard the 30 mosques presentation write to Aman and Bassam to thank them for reminding them how much they love their faith and how they want to explore the diversity of it in the US as a result of their presentation.  Shouldn’t we all be able to feel proud?

5) Consider others who are living with terrorism:

Find a cause to support in honor of those who died and those who survived on 9/11.  Create a fund raising event to raise awareness about those who suffer on a regular basis – and donate funds and time to this cause.  Helping others in need is perhaps the best path to healing our world.

If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on 9/11, please click here.

Peace to you all.