On 9/11/2001 my wife, son and I were living in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Because of the time difference it was evening when we got word of the attacks. We immediately tuned into CNN and Sky News to try to follow what was happening on the other side of the world.
Ironically, although surrounded by 160 million Muslims, we felt perfectly safe. The Bangladesh Government immediately took steps to secure western embassies and residential areas. By the next morning our embassy and the American school were surrounded by Bangladeshi security guards, and within a few days we were once again moving safely around in the city. I relate this simply to underscore the point that Islam is not and never has been the enemy.
The attackers on 9/11 happen to have been Muslims, but fanaticism is not unique to Islam. In our time we have had Buddhists attacking Muslims in Myanmar and Hindus in Sri Lanka and Hindus attacking Muslims in India. Jews have committed acts of terrorism against Muslims in Palestine, and vice versa. And in this country, “Christians” not so long ago stormed our capitol, apparently prepared to kill those who stood in the way of their demented, apocalyptic vision for our country.
The post 9/11 quest for vengeance led this country down a dark road that involved betrayal of our better selves. Today, polls reveal that most Americans believe we’re worse off as a country for our pointless invasion of Iraq, our 20-year involvement in Afghanistan, and our embrace of torture and “extraordinary rendition.”
Can we, on this anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in our history, agree that the real enemy is anyone and anything that leads people to deny the full humanity of others, to deny that we all share the divine spark and that we are all God’s children and bear God’s image?
Let’s honor those who died and those who still suffer the physical and emotional scars of 9/11 by reaffirming our commitment to the values of which we can be proud — democracy, the rule of law, and mutual welfare and respect.
Charles Uphaus is a resident of Frederick County.