Very shortly, and without giving away to much, the episode is based on the discovery of a man who was killed directly after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. And it turns in to an episode where each of the shows characters are forced to face that days events all over again.Each of these characters had emotional memories that varied in experience as much as the characters themselves vary from one another. However, one line through the entire episode stood out to me, above and beyond, all the others. And this quote made a point to me that I have never, in all these years, considered once.
"This was not the work of Religion, it was arrogance, it was hypocrisy, it was hate! Those horrible men who hijacked those planes that day, hijacked MY Religion too. They insulted MY God." ~Arastoo Vaziri
And that was the point that while most American's saw their country under attack, those who follow Islam, also saw their religion under attack. An attack that unfortunately, continues day after day for many people, even these 11 years later.
Now, I will not even begin to get in to how deeply that day affected us all - as Americans, and as individuals. My words, dare I say ANYONE'S words, could not possibly convey that properly! That day changed us all, it changed our entire country. And to this day, it's one subject that, regardless of conspiracy theories or individual beliefs around why or how or who, we can all agree was a complete tragedy. It is extremely rare that we get an event so tragic that no one can find a single positive point to make from it. And I can't possibly start to get in to weighing one groups pain over another. We all suffered that day! So please don't take my words as a dismissal of ANYONE'S pain or loss! I would never do that! But I want to take a few moment to talk about one group's pain and how it has affected an entire nation.
Prior to September 11th, 2001, most Americans had never given much thought to Islam or the people who follow it. For those of us in the thousands of small Christian towns in America, it was rare that we ever even heard the terms Muslim or Islam, and we certainly didn't know enough about the subjects. Then, on that fateful day, all of a sudden an entire nation was in fear of this "Islamic Threat" that we were told was out there. And in a matter of seconds, an entire group of our own people became seen as a threat. Terms like Evil, Hateful, Demonic, Ignorant and worse have become attached to an entire faith and the people who follow it.
For me, it was always clear that these people were Cultural Extremists who simply happened to be Islamic. And I understood that, although I didn't know much about Islam or Muslims, I knew enough to know that they couldn't all be bad. As more and more came out, over the years, and as I did my own research and discovered Islam itself, without all the drama and fear, I discovered a faith like any other.
But for many Americans, Muslims became the enemy. They became a target of anger and ignorance - and of the same arrogance and hypocrisy that fueled those men on that day! And today, 11 years later, things still haven't gone back to normal for them. The very religion they believe so deeply in, and for many of them, the very color of their skin has continued to put them in a position where their every move is watched and followed by fearful onlookers. Things that the rest of us take for granted - like the act of traveling to see friends or family or owning a gun or business - has become a reason for others to not only fear them, but to find fault in them. As if, simply because they look or believe differently they are somehow a bigger danger to society.
This is an issue that has boiled over in to everything from angry threats to total strangers to murder and even picket lines attempting to remove their basic civil rights! Muslims, nation wide, lost their homes, their businesses, their jobs, and their freedom! As a nation we stand back and say "No one can legally fire you for being Muslim" and pretend like it can't happen. But the clear fact is, anyone can loose their job at any time for their faith - simply by listing "downsizing" on their pink-slip! So don't for a second allow your brain to tell you it doesn't happen!
Mosques from coast to coast have suffered threats, vandalism and in some cases, complete destruction. And I don't think there is anyone who doesn't know about all the drama that went on in NYC when a group of fearful citizens attempted to stop construction of an Islamic Community Center a 2 blocks from the site of "Ground Zero." And if you've paid attention to the countless episodes of shows like ABC's What Would You Do you'd see that bigotry is alive and well in the US!
All of this saddens me! And I'm sure, saddens many others. But the fact is this - On September 11th, 2001, our Nation was attacked. Why? Because those who attacked us hated all that we stand for, most of all, our Freedom! And on that day, they sought to quash that freedom that we all hold so dear. The sad part is, for many people, they did! Muslim American's have, in so many ways, lost their freedom! They've lost their freedom to open a business, build a house, get on a plane, bus or train or even go to school. We have allowed for the evil that took hold of those men, to take hold of us! We have created a society where there is a clear line in the sand between "US" and "THEM." From where I stand, that means those horrific men, WON! They can claim victory! And WE are the ones that handed it to them because we allowed our anger, fear and ignorance toward THEM to take hold in our society and create a world where Muslims have lost the rights that groups like these wanted to see them (and all of us) loose!
I think for some, it's hard to understand what it must be like to have to live in fear just because of your faith or your skin color. Every day, sending your kids to school worrying "Is today the day someone will shoot at them?" or choosing to skip Thanksgiving dinner with your family because you are to afraid of how you and your family will be treated at the air plane terminal. And for that, we should feel lucky. But that doesn't mean we should continue to allow it to happen! I can't imagine what it would be like to be a slave, but I know it's wrong and will always stand up against slavery. Ignorance of their plight is no excuse for not acting.
As someone who has what is considered an "alternative faith." I join Muslims in worrying about my safety and my families safety from time to time. I am extremely proud of my faith, as I believe everyone should be. But I also, personally, know of people who have lost their home when their neighbors discovered they were Pagan. And another who lost her business after vandals broke in and destroyed her shop simply because her faith disagreed with their "Good Christian Values." I fear of what could happen if my children follow in my footsteps - all at the same time as I want them too. I am not Muslim. But I have been cursed at, spat on and even slapped because I choose to follow a faith outside of the "norm." I have gotten threatening emails and letters, and even been told "Your kind isn't welcome" when I decided to join the PTA at my sons' school. I understand all to well the fear that some of these people live with day in and day out. And I feel that for me, there really isn't a threat, just nasty people with big mouths.
All the while though, I question, if this is happening to followers of Islam or even non-Muslims from the Middle East - what would or could happen if by some unfortunate event, people began to truly feel such anger and intolerance towards groups which I DO belong to? What would happen is some loud mouth self proclaimed Pagan cult leader were to go insane and start the next Chicago fire or poison the water supply or do some other unthinkable act. Would people separate what this man or his group did from what I believe of who I am? From what I'm seeing with the continued persecution of Muslim Americans my answer is NO! Clearly NO! People are simply to afraid of that which they don't know! And people are STILL too undereducated to not be afraid!
So what do you do about it? How do you not only help those who clearly need your help now and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen to others? Well, I wish I had those answers! The best way to do it would be to educate - both yourself and others. In this world we live in, where hordes of information are available at the click of a mouse, and a good portion of that information is false and inflammatory, even those who do genuinely what answers are often mislead by horrific lies. So it's greatly important to ensure that you are getting your information from a good source.
Usually I would suggest finding a book - or if you MUST - website that is written by someone of that faith which you seek to educate yourself on. I am NOT a fan of sites or books which are written by "middle ground" individuals who feel a few courses in Comparative Religion are enough knowledge to write about a faith they've never been a part of! Nor would I ever suggest someone even spend a second of their time on sites/books which have been written by ex-members. While such sites can be helpful at seeing both sides to an issue, they are often more misleading and sometimes filled with outright lies.
Beyond educating yourself, it's important that we remember to educate others - not only about our path and the paths of others, but of the plight that Muslims and other "non-mainstream" faiths are continually dealing with. Find the groups either in your area or online that can help you to express what is going on and to help others to understand. People need to understand that this is NOT just something one group is going through, but something that we could all potentially face under the right circumstances.
I can not, although I wish I could, change what is going on right now. But I can damn sure do my part to ensure that it stops and that it never - NEVER - happens again, to anyone! September 11th, 2001, is a date that will always remain infamous! And for those of us who were at an age to remember it, those few moments will never leave us! For those who lost loved ones, friends, family or otherwise, it will always and forever be a day of loss.
But we need to ensure that from the struggles and pain, comes triumph! We are Americans! We don't back down! We went to war and we have ended the threat which this one group posed. But in the process, we became a threat to our own people! We turned on one another and worked as a group to deny freedom - the moral basis for our country - to American Citizens! This is not, and NEVER will be okay! This is something that stands in opposition to everything this country stands for!
We can NOT go on allowing the acts of one single group of extremists to alter how we see or feel about an entire group of AMERICANS! They are innocent! They get up, go to work, go to school, pray and support their families just like the rest of us! And they deserve to do it, as do we all, without having to fear how other citizens may react to them.
I realize that for the majority (if not all) of those who read this, especially if you made it this far, none of this is new to you. You're thinking "Of course it's not okay" and "I would never be a bigot!" But that's not the only thing this is about. It's wonderful that MOST American's don't fall in to the category that would actually cause these people harm! But the fact is - again, as we see over and over on shows like What would you do or 20/20 - the majority of people wouldn't harm someone else, but they also won't step in when it happens! As Americans, we stand for what we believe in - or at least, we should! So what I'm asking is not only that you take the time to educate yourself, your family and those around you, but also that you speak up! When you see it happening SPEAK UP! When you hear someone telling nasty racist or religiously motivated jokes, SPEAK UP! And don't ever feel like it's not your business... Standing up for the freedom and equality of everyone IS your business!
Okay, so at this point, I feel like I'm running on... But the point is this - September 11th changed us all! It changed the country as a whole! But there is NO excuse for it to continue to cause pain for our fellow Americans! And it IS up to each and every one of us to stand up and make the changes and make a difference!