Muslim Americans joined observances, issued statements of support and held events of their own to show their unity with the rest of the country as America marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.
“We believe that, on 9/11, 10 years ago, tremendous, heinous crimes were created when 3,000 innocents were murdered,” said Waseem Sayed, national coordinator of a “Muslims for Life” blood drive sponsored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The group is hosting 251 blood drives in 125 cities and, as of Tuesday, had collected nearly 4,000 units of blood, Sayed said.
“Unfortunately, 9/11 cast a dark shadow on our faith,” said Dr. Taha Shaikh, director of Social Services of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Broward County.
“What better way to honor the victims of 9/11 than to save the lives of our fellow Americans with blood donations?” said Shaikh, an emergency room physician. “Everybody associates the 9/11 attacks with Muslims. We are trying to say that’s not who we are.”
Still, in South Florida, there have been some connections to 9/11 and to terrorist threats since then:
• Many of the 9/11 hijackers covertly trained in this area.
• Two Muslim clerics are in a Miami jail awaiting trial with other family members on charges of financially supporting the Pakistani Taliban, deemed a terrorist organization by the State Department.
• In 2007, Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, was found guilty of participating in a South Florida-based al-Qaeda support cell.
• Five members of the so-called “Liberty City 7” are in prison serving sentences ranging from 82 to 162 months for allegedly plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and federal buildings in Miami.
Nasir Ahmad, an African-American Muslim, dental surgeon and the imam at Masjid Al-Ansar in Miami, said the case of the Liberty City defendants, most of them African American or Haitian, raises concerns.
“It did not sit right with me,” said Ahmad. “It appears those gentlemen did not have the real intent to do anything.”
Only following two mistrials did a third trial result in five convictions in that case.
“African American Muslims, for the most part, were grief-stricken about 9/11,’’ Ahmad said, adding that his mosque participated in an interfaith 9/11 event at Temple Judea in Coral Gables.
Muslims attended 9/11 anniversary events, including an interfaith program on Sunday at the Tradition of the Palm Beaches, a retirement facility in West Palm Beach.
The sponsors included the Interfaith Clergy Committee of Palm Beach County, of which Gholam Rahman has been a member for nearly 20 years.
Rahman agrees with the findings in a recent Pew Center for the People & the Press report that Muslim Americans feel no indication of increased alienation or anger from other Americans in response to concerns about home-grown Muslim terrorists.
The report, based on a survey conducted in 2007, finds no evidence of rising support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans and that Muslim Americans have not become disillusioned with the country.
“I am not surprised by these findings,” said Rahman, a Pakistani native who moved to South Florida in 1972 when there were only about four or five Muslim families in Palm Beach County. Now there are nearly 10,000 Muslims supporting five or six mosques, he said.
Muslims enjoy the
freedoms of America, which embody the same principles outlined in the Qu’ran, Islam’s holy book, Rahman said. But, after 9/11, some of those freedoms came under attack for Muslims in America, he said.
“Something changed in America and something changed among Muslims in America,” said Rahman, a retired Palm Beach Post editor. “Some of us thought that now we will be seen as the enemies of America and that we would be targeted. And, in some cases, that did happen.
“In any community, there are hard hats and red necks who think that being a Muslim means being a terrorist,” Rahman said. “But I have found that 99.9 percent of the people here have been very supportive and understanding. After 9/11, my Christian and Jewish friends kept calling and visiting and asking me, ‘How can we help you?’”
Amanullah De Sondy, a visiting professor at the University of Miami, also welcomed the Pew Center’s findings.
“This is a very hopeful result,” De Sondy said. “One of the key points from the attacks is that there was a greater awareness of different religions, especially Islam. But it is important for us to remain [aware] that there are still a few individuals who want to do terrible things.”