Intolerance vs. Terrorism

For years now, immigration has been an issue requiring attention. The U.S. borders as well as international airports have been an access point for drugs and weapons and on September 11, 2001, America was attacked in a way many Americans never expected could happen on U.S. soil.

On that day, 2,996 people died including the 19 terrorist, Al Qaeda hijackers. The majority of deaths were civilians, including nationals from over 90 countries.

Very soon after the attacks, the luggage of one of the terrorist, Mohamed Atta, was found which not only identified all 19 male hijackers but also had detailed plans, motives and backgrounds on the men and the attacks. On September 27, 2001, the photos of these 19 terrorists were released on the news and for the first time, people could put faces to the horrible anger and blame they had been feeling about the innocent lives that had suddenly been taken away on that clear and sunny Tuesday morning in New York City.

Many people still had not located loved ones, did not know if they were missing or dead and at the same time, there was still an unimaginable grief and anger throughout the U.S. for this horrible crime. What could have caused someone to do this? What did anyone in these towers, in the Pentagon, on those planes do to anybody? Why were they suddenly gone? Why did New York City look like a war zone? Why did it feel like a war zone?

The answer to those questions would come from Osama Bin Laden. He provided the leadership and funding for this group. Initially Bin Laden denied his involvement but later admitted involvement via video tape talking to Khaled al-Harbi. The tape was broadcast on several news networks in December 2001. He stated, “Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people.”

Right after the attack, the U.S. responded with the War on Terror, a war that is continuing today in its fight to overthrow al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Here in the U.S. however, right after the attacks, hate crimes began happening against Muslim-Americans, Middle Easterners or other “Middle Eastern-looking” people. There were reports of attacks on Mosque and other religious buildings including a Hindu Temple.

Different people were assaulted and Balbir Singh Sodhi was fatally shot on September 15, 2001 when he was mistaken as a Muslim but was actually Sikh, a follower of Sikhism. Like others, he has been mistaken due to the fact both religions wear head turbans. According to studies done by Ball State University, following the attacks, people perceived to be of Middle Eastern, Arab or Muslim were more likely to be the victims of hate crimes.

Although 19 terrorists hijacked the planes on September 11, 2001 and Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for leading and funding the group as well as the knowledge that al Qaeda (a militant Islamist terrorist organization) is the force behind these attacks, many people still focus the attacks on an ethnic group or a religion. What is the reasoning for the lack of tolerance or the outright hate towards Muslims or those practicing Islam? The main reason given is the attacks on 9/11.

Following the attacks on 9/11, a joint statement was released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Medical Association of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Society of North America, American Muslim Alliance, Muslim Public Affairs Council and others which stated;

“American Muslims utterly condemn the vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.”

The acts of these 19 terrorists did not represent their religion, their culture or their people as a whole.

April 19, 1995 was a regular Wednesday morning for those working in the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City until 9:02 a.m.

Timothy McVeigh, an American Militia movement sympathizer detonated an explosive-filled truck parked in front of the building. His co-conspirator, Terry Nichols had helped in the bomb making process which became the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the attacks of 9/11/01. That day, 168 people lost their lives, including 19 children. 680 people were injured.

Who was Timothy McVeigh? Where was he from? Timothy McVeigh was a U.S. Army Veteran. He had left the military in 1992. He’d written the local papers complaining about taxes and the government’s mismanagement. He was motivated by his hate for the federal government. In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas to show support for those at Waco and distributed pro-gun rights literature. After the Oklahoma attacks, he said he was angered by the way the Waco siege was handled. He arranged his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deaths at Waco.

On February 18, 2010 employees at an Austin, Texas IRS office say “it felt like a bomb blew off” and that “the ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.”

Joseph stack, a 53 year old software engineer launched a suicide attack by flying a small plane into the IRS building containing 200 employees. Employees in surrounding offices were suddenly looking at images that appeared to be a repeat of 9/11.

Stack had previous issues with the IRS and left a note. “I have had all I can stand,” he wrote. “I choose not to keep looking over my shoulder at ‘big brother’ while he strips my carcass.”

Just in these three cases, to try to have prevented these acts of terrorism would have meant to have been looking for anyone that was of Middle Eastern decent, Muslim-American, American militia affiliated, anti-government and anyone that had really had it with the IRS?

The fact is in every group, in every race, in every religion, there are those that are bad or extreme and those people don’t represent the entire group.

This country would have never moved forward without that understanding. Wars would never truly have ended. Slavery would have never ended. Civil rights and freedoms would not exist. Equal rights cannot truly be something that the U.S. says it gives unless they are there for everyone.

True equal rights cannot be given by picking and choosing or not be given and then not honored.

The danger doesn’t come to America by those who appear to be different or come from a different culture or background. Danger comes when America fails to recognize humanity for each individual or when Americans are withholding opportunities from a select group that many are just taking for granted.

One religion can’t condemn another religion in a country that is based on “Freedom of Religion”.

There are those using the argument that the Islamic religion is based on extremism and saying that those wanting to build a mosque are doing so to convert others to their belief and lifestyle. There are two points that need to be pointed out here. First, when any church, synagogue or temple is built, it is done so to bring in new followers and also to give their present church goers a new and better place to worship. Second, in most recent news the violence happening is being done toward the Muslims and their proposed Mosque and toward their religion in the U.S., not by them.

There is a planned burning of the Qur’an on 9/11 at the Dove World Outreach Center and whether or not you agree with a person’s belief or not, to burn their religious book is just unacceptable. How would anyone feel if someone was burning Bibles? How would anyone feel if any group was holding a burning of any kind of books?

What if anytime a crime was done by a member of a family, the entire family was held accountable?

What if anytime a catholic priest was caught doing anything questionable, all priest were suddenly seen as suspicious?

What if one employee was caught stealing and suddenly everybody was being searched each day coming to work?

What if one person at a workplace says you made them feel uncomfortable and suddenly you are transferred, cut back on hours or let go of. Not because you did anything but just because someone said something, thought something or judged you.

What if another religion was suddenly the target of intolerance or hate crimes? Mormonism? Catholicism? Christianity? Would people turn their backs on the followers of this religion, join in the fight against the religion, just not do anything and remain silent or stand up for freedom of religion? What is the right thing to do in America? What is really behind the intolerance toward the Muslims, their faith and their desire to build new places to worship?

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