Monday, September 11, 2006

Flashback: 9/11/2001

It's 9/11. Nobody needs to say more. Everybody knows what that means. No, they are not referring to the anniversary of events in Chile that many decades ago, which might highlight some of the things what we all--and yes, all of us on this planet--did and put up with for decades and which got the planet to the place we're at. No, they are not referring to the anniversary of the death of Pakistan's founder; a person's whose politics and way of being a Muslim politician and leader might be relevant to today's problems. We all know know which September 11th we're talking about.

So what is one to do? There's so much going to be said about it being 5 years later and, specifically how Muslims and Pakistani-Americans are faring and what they are thinking etc. (for example, see this article in Pakistan's biggest English newspaper: http://www.dawn.com/2006/09/11/int11.htm ). But even in that regard, it might be instructive to start the day by just going back to read, unedited, unexplicated and unspun, the emails I sent out during that day five years ago. I hadn't started seriously blogging then; like a lot of "moderates", frankly, I didn't quite know how to take on extremism--or who'd listen, if anyone. And personally, I didn't consciously self-identify with or as a "progressive Muslim", then, either. But more on all that later. I personally feel this is not the day or time to bring that up. So, here it is:
I tried to write this earlier in the day, in reply to a query from some friends, but a system failure [unrelated to the other happenings of the day] prevented that.

Today started with a call from my brother at 7:11 am Pacific Standard Time, telling me to turn my television on.

The morning was spent tracking down friends and family in the New York Metropolitan Area.

Everyone I know in that area -- and the Washington DC area -- are okay. Physically, at least. As far as I know, no one I know was flying today. The last report came in late evening. Night on the East Coast of the United States. That concerned a cousin my niece first reminded me worked in New York City.

In the late afternoon, I found myself explaining over the phone to my 8-year old niece that people do this kind of thing because they get really, really angry and when they get angry, they get violent, and that while violence is never a good thing, that's just how some people are.

A few things have been going thru my head.

If this had happened barely a year and a half ago, I would have been stuck in New Jersey unable to go home for the night. Irmeen would have been very, very busy to say the least. St. Vincent's Hospital is the closest medical institution to the World Trade Center.

At least a couple of times during the morning, when the CNN anchor said the doctors at St. Vinnie's were asking for old clothes and shoes, I almost got up to collect some from the closet and take the elevator the basement to get over to the other side of the building. The realization that we no
longer lived on 13th Street in Manhattan was instantaneous, but the feeling was real while it lasted.

Another fragment that has been going through my head is that "Last time something like this happened, there were internment camps."

It is not at all a nice thing to contemplate, but the realization that what happened after that other unspeakable tragedy in Oklahoma City -- the very year I moved to The States -- had tempered the reaction to events today was
strong.

And it was just last night that we found out that our Pakistani grandmother -- the matriarch of the family that my father lived with when he emigrated to Pakistan in '54, alone in his immediate family to do so -- had passed away Sunday night. Having grown up abroad, she was the only grandparent we had ever gotten the chance to worry with whether I or my brother got home in the evening.

Which reminds me, Tarique/Shaikhoo, haven't heard from you yet.

It is definitely shaping up to be an odd week.

Sabahat.


------
Interacting with people on several professional and social mailing lists I am subscribed to, one thing that strikes me is that the average American *needs* to be reassured that what happened yesterday was the act of extremists and that most Muslims don't approve of them. That's something to remember.

In terms of specifics, it seems like the following points are the main things Americans need information on:

* The controversial and by no means mainstream status in the
Muslim world of suicide as a tool of Jihad

* The prohibition on Suicide in Islam

* That Islam does not demand the killing the killing of people
just because they "oppose it's teachings" -- as Jihad or otherwise.

Above all, we need to be patient and understanding ourselves for the anger, outrage, and sheer emotion that people have. We have all felt it ourself.

I guess I didn't get the looks someone mentioned they were getting at work because *I* was the one in my office that shared the anxiety of the colleague that was trying to reach his sister, who was walking back to Queens from Manhattan.

Up till last July my wife was a doctor at St. Vincents', the closest hospital to the WTC. They treated people after the firing at the top of the Empire State Building. Muslims make up about 2% or so of the US Population and the percentage in New York City must be higher. There were at least 500 Pakistanis working in the WTC.

Is anyone actively involved with CAIR? We need to have an advisory that our brothers and sisters can make available to people [***including MUSLIMS***] that might misunderstand any of the above. Only Press Releases are not enough.

I have not been able to work directly with CAIR up to now, but I am a technical writer by profession and would be honoured to work with volunteers/members on this.

Quoted below is a mail I wrote on a professional discussion list today. I am sorry for the duplicate content with the message above.

Salaam, Peace,

Sabahat.

Both as a former [moved within the last year and a half] resident of New York City and a Muslim, I would like to thank everybody for their wishes, support, and understanding. Would also like to say that I understand the anger and outrage. It really is time the silent majority of the Muslim population of the world did some introspection and stopped letting people that think girls getting an education [a religious obligation] is less important than a dress code [a recommendation] control not just how the religion is viewed, but, more importantly, how it is practised in the 21st Century.

Like everybody else, I spent a major part of yesterday tracking down family members and friends. Got my last confirmation of safety this morning. An Indian friend of mine who is on a project in NYC got in touch with me over Yahoo Messenger and requested me to call his dad in Delhi to reassure him.

It is less than a year and a half since we moved out of New York City. Up till last July my wife was a doctor at St. Vincents', the closest hospital to the WTC. She was there when people were brought in after an unstable person fired on tourists at the top of the Empire State Building. Muslims make up about 2% or so of the US Population and the percentage in New York City must be higher. There were at least 500 Pakistanis working in the WTC.


> Lots of people of Middle Eastern extraction work in
> high-tech. They may have trouble from prejudiced,
> vengeful idiots. Those of us from other backgrounds
> may need to stand up for our perfectly innocent
> co-workers who may happen to share an ethnic
> background with suspected terrorists. As a Southerner
> and a Texan I know what it is like to have people
> think my entire region is represented by some backward
> killer.

Thank you for saying that. It means a lot.

Sabahat.

I also had reason to say the following on another list:

As a practising Muslim, I was brought up to believe that comitting suicide was one way of settling once and for all that you would *NOT* go to heaven. Suicide and murder are equal. You are taking a life.

Suicide bombing is *very* controversial in the Muslim World. People that subscribe to it as acceptable in *any* circumstances used to be a *very* small minority.
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