Reconcilliation on September 11th

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Today is September 11th, 2012. Eleven years ago Islamic terrorists crashed a plane into the Twin Towers killing around 3,000 civilians. The event sent a wave of shock and fear across America, and since then, America has stereotyped all Muslims and Islamic cultures as violent terrorists. The fear and hatred aroused by the attacks of September 11th has led many U.S. citizens to discriminate against Muslims in America and abroad. As someone who practices the faith of Christianity and an American citizen, I have been told that Islam is a violent, intolerant religion. Eleven years later, I sit here in a cafe in Morocco, drinking mint tea and eating dates in an Islamic country, and I have something different to say.

Our Study Abroad Class went to visit an Imam (an Imam is a religious leader of Islam) while staying in Meknes city. Our assignment was to simply go and bring a list of questions to ask. We entered his home shoeless, greeted by an older man in a jellaba, and made our way into the living area; an elaborate textiled room with cushioned couches against every wall. Barefoot and nervous on the couches, we waited silently, but not for long. A group of robed men came in, smiling and greeting us with “salam alaykmmeaning “Peace be upon you” while carrying trays of unpasteurized milk, cake bread, and dates. Starting with the milk they began serving us while we were seated. The hospitality surprised me, and their kindness was more than I had ever experienced from a stranger. Some of us had been fanning ourself a little bit and one of the men came over and opened a window and then asked if that was better. Many of them took photos of our class with their iphones and cameras. One of the servers, a little old man in a white Jellaba and mischievous blue eyes, would duck under the camera when a photo was being taken and then would jump up to be in the picture. When he would serve us, if we rejected, would say, “oh come on, eat more!” There was so much laughter and conversing with these honored religious men. It was then that I remembered the story of Jesus washing the desciple’s feet. We reached out by asking to learn about Islam, and they in turn treated us with the upmost respect and generosity in the same way Jesus treated others. The Imam finally came in, his back turned to us, seated next to our translator. The class asked him the questions and he gave us the answers. He emphasized that Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same, one God, a merciful God who loves us and forgives our mistakes, which is why there must be love and tolerance for all.

This idea of loving ones neighbor and reconciliation is the foundation of Christianity, that God loved the world so much that He became human to save us and to be with His children. Jesus washed the desciples feet, conversed and loved the outcasts of society, speaking to women, the sick, and gentiles (who were looked down upon by everyone else) when no one else would. If Jesus were here today, would He not be hanging out with the Muslims? Visiting the Imam’s home was a coming together of two faiths that worship the same God. We reached out and crossed into an understanding, love, and tolerance for each other. Reconciliation isn’t easy, but what matters is simply trying. And that trying and attempt to learn turns into something beautiful, celebrating on a spiritual level that is deep-rooted among us all.

While my heart hurts and grieves for the lost and families of the lost due to 9/11, I also grieve for Muslims and the treatment the West has shown them in America and abroad, while here, they feed and greet us with love. Even the people in the streets show great kindness and hospitality, displaying a similar love that Jesus showed and represented – a love that Christians seem to have forgotten. In an answer to the question of “What are the biggest misconceptions the West has about Islam” the Imam said that the mistakes of some Muslims now represent all of Islam. There are Islamic extremists yes, but that anger is stemmed from the conditions of the countries economics and politics, not the religion. Christianity gets grouped with the extremists as well, yet not all Christians think that way. If anyone can understand and empathize with Muslims it should be the Christians, and even the Jews. I know that I can understand and empathize now, even  on September 11th, 2012.

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