As 9-11 rolls around I always reflect back to that day. I always feel my personal bond to the brother-sisterhood of fire fighters, whether I serve with them personally or not.
As we approach the 15th anniversary of the attacks, I find myself reflecting on things differently this year. There will forever be images in our mind of the firefighters, police officers and other first responders who gave their lives that day. But amoung those victims that day were also the nearly 3000 American citizens that perished
Among those victims were also dozens of Muslims. Like all of the victims of that day they went to work thinking that today was another day like any other. They ranged from the unborn to people in their 60’s. As all the other victims they came from all walks of life and occupations. Just as their co-workers, they had families and hobbies. They played, worked and volunteered in their communities and schools. What immediately marked them after the attack was that they shared a religious label which associated them with perpetrators of mass murder.
Around the world, headlines routinely associate “Islam” and “Muslim” with “fanatic,” “fundamentalist,” “terrorist”, “violence,” and “Jihad.” Media generates an image of the entire Muslim community that’s painted by the actions of radical extremists whose behaviors violate principles shared by most of our world.
Muslims in the U.S. experience these stereotypes in myriad forms. Discrimination in housing and employment; harassment and attacks from strangers on the streets; desecration of their mosques and Islamic centers across the country. This stereotype has given way to a kind of “sanctioned” racism.
I have a number of Muslim friends. We are close, not merely acquaintances. I count my blessings for these people in my life. Two work with me on my team. Others have taught my children and continue to teach my grandkids. We’ve watched our youngsters together as they grew into adulthood. We’ve shared stories and laughter.
Last month my friend and colleague Yasir Zulfiqar went to a listing appointment. There, he was blatantly told by the home owner that he would not be comfortable working with him as an Agent - because he is a Muslim. Yasir respectfully took it in stride. But I could see the hurt on his face and the tears in his eyes as he shared the story.
A pamphlet published by the American Muslim Council explains the word jihad is more accurately translated as ‘exertion of effort’, not ‘holy war.’ The prophet Muhammed said that “the highest form of jihad is the personal struggle to make oneself a better Muslim.”
I would say this description fits Yasir. He as dedicated to making himself a good Muslim and a good man. He is one of the most supportive and contributing team memebers I have ever had. In the years I have had the fortune of working with Yasir, I know of him to work with honesty and integrity. He is fair, hardworking, funny, compassionate, a good husband, a kind and loving father… these are the truths that I know about Yasir Zulfiqar. He’s my friend.
While there are many strong voices, Muslim, non-Muslim and secular alike that denounce militant jihad and Islamic fundamentalism, there remain individuals who seem committed to promoting fear - and divisiveness. “Islamophobia”.
Globalization must come to mean that people everywhere are considered as one family; black, white, Hispanic, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist – whatever. We are all people.
Embracing the diversity of culture and religion and promoting open dialog between all peoples is what our world should embrace. We should celebrate our uniqueness and our differences.
Laughter, tears, baby’s boo-boos, the triumph of winning the match, glory in the sunset, family times, or the taste of cool water in the shade; these and a million other things are what we all have in common. Our commonalities are vast. Our differences are tiny in comparison.