Ten years ago on Spetember 11, the United States and the world were changed forever when terrorists crashed four planes into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on a crisp, clear September morning, killing thousands of innocent people. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 exemplifies loss of life, loss of security, loss of hope, and even a feeling of loss in common humanity. Ten years later, it is not only paramount that we honor those whose lives were lost in the brutal attacks but that we remember why they were lost. For probing into the reasoning behind the attacks allows us to learn lessons, to move forward, and to realize why organizations such as Intercultural Dialogue Institute exist.
Why did the attacks of September 11, 2001 happen? They were perpetrated because of hate, hate founded in ignorance and a lack of respect for human dignity. The terrorists who intentionally took so many innocent lives that day, did not take into account the fact that amongst those murdered were also Muslims in addition to others killed who were Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic or Atheist. They did not care about who they were killing, whether they were Arab, Turkish, Canadian, American, or otherwise. The terrorists’ only goal was utter destruction, corporeal and ideological.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 embody not only a physical hijacking of planes with the intention to kill thousands of innocent people, a concept forbidden in the Qur’an, but also represent a hijacking of Islam itself. As Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Muslim scholar and activist, stated “ A real Muslim, who understood Islam in every aspect, cannot be a terrorist. It is hard for a man to stay as a Muslim if he becomes involved in terror.” Now is not the time to draw lines in the sand and to qualify and quantify people by how they look or what religion they practice. To quote Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, famous poet and 13th-century Islamic Sufi philosopher, “Don’t hate me because I am you.” Xenophobia, Islamophobia and hate based on an ignorant “us versus them” mentality are of the past, of death and destruction. Now is the time to unify and to celebrate our common humanity in the face of those extremists who would destroy it and us.
As former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said during her interview at the Carter Center on September 7, 2011, now-a decade after 9/11-all people should stand together and “look forward.” “It is not about looking at the person next to you to figure out if they are Muslim,” stated Secretary Albright, because “we are all in this together.” Rather, now is the time for every nation of the world to be proud of our resilience and to realize that education and empathy based on respect and a recognition of basic human dignity are founding elements for the world of the future, a better world which each of has both a stake in and the power to influence.
As Intercultural Dialogue Institute, we have a a vision and desire to live in a peaceful world, a better world where non-violence, respect, understanding, friendship, cooperation and love prevails. Thus, IDI seeks to promote dialogue through educational and cultural programs and humanitarian works. We at IDI pledge to continue to achieve this vision through our mission: proactively contributing to solving educational, cultural, environmental, social and humanitarian issues, by contributing to world peace via respect, acceptance, dialogue, love, richness of faith and culture, and by creating opportunities for dialogue between communities to build bridges between cultures and peoples.
As our hearts bleed for the victims of 9/11, we believe that we altogether-regardless of our distinct cultures, ethnicities, and races- do share a common dream: A peaceful world, in which love is very much loved and hatred is doomed to be hated. Let’s open not only our minds but also our hearts. Let’s listen not only our neighbors but also voices that extend overseas. Let’s imagine the peace not only in our towns but also in the universe.