I just got asked a great question about Islam and Christianity, but it’s going to take me a few days to put together anything approaching a decent answer to it. So proper post in a couple of days. But in the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot (as I’m sure many people have been) about 9-11 and it’s effect on me and my life. Obviously this is going to be a bit personal and not terribly academic, so feel free to skip it and come back in a few days when this blog will be back to its normal hijinks.
There are about a million things that could be said, most of which we’ve all been discussing for the last ten years – there are the ‘where were you when’ stories, like my parents have with the assassination of JFK and their parents with the bombing of Pearl Harbor; there is the ongoing conversation about national security versus personal privacy and the direction that US foreign policy has taken as a result of the attacks; there are conspiracy theories and beautiful stories of heroism and love that read like the stuff of legends. But for me, one of the most lasting effects of 9-11 has been the effect on the Western and the American perception of Islam, perhaps best characterized by the poster that started to circulate on the internet a few days before the anniversary, rather tragically boasting ‘Everything I need to know about Islam I learned on September 11th’ (I appreciate that urlybits ran it with the comment ‘American Muslims lost far more in the long haul’).
It’s become cliche at this point to talk about September 11th changing your life, but in my case, it really is true – I have no idea if I would be doing what I’m doing now otherwise. I was a high school senior in 2001, and although I had always enjoyed history, I had always been taught it as the history of Europe and North America, and frankly, I was sick of it, and was originally going to be pre-med in college. Instead, I started studying Arabic, and found myself working alongside Muslims for the first time in my life. I was amazed to discover an entire section of world culture and history of which I had been totally unaware.
Thus, I’m well-aware that me complaining that people only took an interest in Islam after 9-11 is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black- for me and for many of my classmates and colleagues, 9-11 has been an inescapable part of our work. However, I still think it’s fair to call attention to the fact that it’s not actually the case that 9-11 is a terribly important incident in Islamic history, except insofar as it’s an important incident in everyone’s history, as it has had far-reaching effects on society and politics the world over. It just happens to be that the self-professed religious identity of those who perpetrated these attacks was one of the first times Islam was propelled into the American public consciousness. This rather tragic historical coincidence has shaped the public discussion of Islam for the last decade, and sadly, will probably continue to do so for years to come.
 Okay, yes, this blog isn’t really terribly full of hijinks on a regular basis. But I just love the word hijinks. Hijinks!