Remembrance

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[1].

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.

[1] Okay, yes, this blog isn’t really terribly full of hijinks on  a regular basis.  But I just love the word hijinks.  Hijinks!

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About askanislamicist

I'm an academic who specializes in early Islamic history and the history of religious interactions, who, in her free time, enjoys shouting into the internet.
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4 Responses to Remembrance

  1. Nahida says:

    ‘Everything I need to know about Islam I learned on September 11th’

    Was that circulating again? I’m glad I didn’t see it. The first time I heard it I froze inside. Islamophobia existed before 9/11–what was the excuse then? What a perfect way to demonize the enemy, an entity about whom nothing is known making it perfectly easy to imagine the most terrible qualities and attack violently and monstrously in accordance. It was astonishing, considering the people who sported this attitude didn’t exactly have a clean religious history themselves.

    • Obviously I missed this the last time around, as this was the first time I had seen it, but yeah, I had pretty much the same reaction, followed by about five minutes of me cursing at my computer screen. It’s just so sad to think there is anyone, absolutely anyone in the world that actually feels that way.

  2. Let us not forget that Reagans future vp (Bush) and cia chief (Casey) met with the Ayatolla Khomeini behind the back of the then-current Carter administration (treason) and arranged for Iran to maintain the American hostages until after the election. In return Iran got, in the incredibly least, a conduit thru which to illegally receive missiles and other armaments.which came to light when traitor Ollie North got busted taking the missile $$$ and giving it to pals in Central America who turned out, naturally enough, to be drug smugglers USA-bound. Ah, the superior old days

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