“Muslims Did Not Kill My Father”

Just a few days ago, Donald Trump signed a Muslim ban.  This ban is supposed to be temporary, 90 days, and for this reason, many people do not believe that this is a big deal.   I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is the only way to ensure our country’s safety, that this will likely prevent terrorists from attacking Americans on our soil again.

If you know me at all, you know that my politics are liberal, and that although I have no problem speaking my mind, I generally try to stay out of political discussions in mixed company, as well as in public venues.

I have been emotional about what is going on in our country for quite some time; after hearing of Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim refugees and citizens from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan, my emotions heightened and hit a peak today, while waiting for my weekly cup of comfort (Dunkin Donuts hot tea).  This morning I  witnessed a conversation that made me so upset and so emotional that I sat in my car and cried before I drove to school.

As I sat in Dunkin Donuts waiting for my hot tea, I heard two men discussing the state of our country and Trump’s 90 day ban on Muslims.  Here is what I overheard:

Man 1: So Trump banned Muslims.

Man 2: Good.  Maybe now we’ll feel safe.

Man 1: Yeah.  You know all those liberals will be crying about racism.

Man 2: Yep,  Well, maybe if they knew someone who was killed in 9/11 or something, they would realize it’s what we have to do.

Man 1: Ha. Yeah.  Without Muslims, those Americans would have never been killed.

During this conversation, I stayed silent.  I did not speak.  But again, if you know me, my face cannot lie.  One of the men turned around and saw my pursed lips and rolled eyes.  The men, acting like I wasn’t even there, turned to each other and nodded, as if to say, “yeah, if only she understood.”  I took my tea and left, quiet, but I wanted so badly to speak up.  At the time I couldn’t.  I was so taken aback and so sad that I froze and ran, knowing that I needed to get myself together so that I could calm down, get to work and teach my classes for the day.

If given another chance, I would have responded.  I would have said something, but since I didn’t at the time, I’m going to say now what I should have said then.

“Hey gentlemen, I know I don’t wear a badge around town advertising this, but I did know someone who was killed in 9/11.  My father.  Muslims did not kill my father.  In the days, weeks, months and even years after 9/11, I was angry.  I too thought that it was the religion of Islam that drove those men to crash two planes into the World Trade Center; however, I learned, I changed, and I grew.  I realized that no, Muslims did not kill my father.  But you know what did kill my father?  Psychosis killed my father.  Ignorance killed my father.  Hate, fear, anger and frustration killed my father.  Muslims did not.  And before you point out that these people were Muslims, let me correct you preemptively and inform you that, really these people were not Muslim.  They were cowardly people who hid under the guise of Islam; they were not religious, godly people who worshipped Allah as the Qu’ran teaches.

So there you have it men, Muslims did not kill my father.  But I can tell you what Muslims did do.  Muslims taught me that my anger and pain was misdirected at a religion and should be directed at a few individuals.  Muslims took the time to look into my eyes and step into my shoes.  Muslims inspired me to choose Religion as a second major in college.  Muslims became my teachers, colleagues and best friends.  Muslims opened up their arms to my brother, invited him to Israel, and encouraged him to share his story.  Muslims mentored me through my hellish and trying year as an inner city teacher.  Muslims shared dinners with me, took walks with me and held me when I cried.  Muslims helped me through an awful, abusive relationship and terrible break up, and counseled me when I told them my mom was diagnosed with cancer, again.  Muslims told me I was their favorite English teacher; told me that they want to become a teacher because of me, wrote amazing essays on literary masterpieces, sought extra help, extra credit and wished me a “Happy Chanukah” before leaving for December break.

Maybe you will never be lucky enough to be shown love by a diverse group people, and for you I feel sorry, but I have.  And once again, before you give me the ‘the Qu’ran is so violent’ argument, let me inform you that Islam is a beautiful, peaceful religion that is not so unlike Judaism and Christianity (all are part of the Abrahamic tradition).  Let me offer you my copy, since I’m sure you don’t own one yourself.  If you’d like, in the spirit of acceptance and tolerance, I’ll bring it tomorrow to Dunkin Donuts; just please don’t mess with my annotations.  So I ask you, next time you  want to say something ridiculous like, ‘we can finally feel safe,’ think of me and how unsafe I and many others felt standing next to you and your ignorant discussion.  Think of the refugees who are fleeing an actually unsafe environment and being denied access to a country that could help them become the next student, teacher, professor and friend.  Enjoy my copy of the Qu’ran, and please, please, please do not mess with my annotations.”

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13 thoughts on ““Muslims Did Not Kill My Father”

  1. Wow loved your message of tolerance understanding & acceptance…I am sorry you lost your dad in 9/11. Your parents did a great job also along with your deverse teachers. Thank you I truly agree with EVERYTHING you shared.

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  2. I, too, am an English teacher to an amazingly wonderful diverse groups of students and some of my favorites over my 23 years teaching have been Muslims. As a jewish woman, married to a Catholic man, teaching in a diverse community of religions and ethnicities, I fully appreciate the love, compassion, knowledge and fun we can all bring to each other’s lives. I’m sorry for your terrible loss. I had several students who lost parents that fateful day in 2001 and for all of us, especially them and you, like would never be the same. Thank you for sharing your observations and feelings. It’s emotionally draining to hear and read comments made by ignorant people who are full of hate and blindly propelling their hateful thoughts forward onto anyone who will listen. Hate and fear are very strong and will tear us all down if we don’t face it with compassion, intelligence, peace, wisdom and clear, patient communication. Our students are the generation that will be charged with fixing this mess – so teach them well and with love.

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  3. Thank you for your story. I hope next time you are faced with this situation, and yes there will probably be a next time, I hope you are able to steel yourself in the moment and say what needs to be said. I honor your courage and respect your fight. We’re in this together.

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  4. Since 9/11, my greatest fear is not that middle eastern men will again crash planes into American towers. It is that American men will crash planes into Muslim towers. If that happens, we will all truly be lost. Keep lighting the way in the hope that it will allow people to see through their ignorance.

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  5. Your essay brings to mind Aesop’s fable of the Sun and the Wind–they argued over who was the stronger of the two and sought to resolve the dispute by seeing who could get a traveler to remove his coat first.The Wind blew hard but that only made the traveler hold tighter to the coat. Yet when the sun sent down its gentle beams of warm sunlight, the traveler peeled off his coat and went to sit under the shade of a nearby tree, making the Sun the winner. “Make America Great Again” ? No, we need people like you who can “Make America Think Again”.

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  6. Wonderful piece and so courageous of you to write it. Bless you and your family I can not imagine the heartache you went through. I agree with the writer above we need more people like you to make America great! Thank you

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  7. YOUR UNCLE ROSS SHARED THIS ESSAY WITH ME. I APPLAUD YOUR COURAGE ,
    I CANNOT BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE LOSS FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ON 9-11.
    I AM A CONSERVATIVE WHO DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP. I AGREE WITH THE TEMPORARY BAN ON THE REFUGEES. I DO BELIEVE MANY IGNORANT PEOPLE HAVE USED 9-11 TO DISCRIMINATE AND HATE. IT IS VERY DANGEROUS TO GENERALIZE ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE.
    I TO KNOW MANY MUSLIM PEOPLE WHO ARE WONDERFUL AND PEACEFUL AS IS THE RELIGION IF INTERPETED PROPERLY. THE FEW EXTREMISTS HAVE SOARED 50% OF OUR COUNTRY. I DO WORRY ABOUT THOSE FEW AND I DONT KNOW WHAT THE ANSWER IS TO FIX THIS PROBLEM. I JUST KNOW YOU ARE A SPECIAL TYPE OF PERSON TO FEEL THIS WAY.

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  8. So we’ll said, Amy. You are right, a whole group of people cannot be blamed for an act of terrorism that is perpetrated by a group of haters. This was a beautiful essay and I will be happy to post it on Facebook so that it can be read by my friends. I know many of my friends will share it too. Thank you so much for explaining what prompted you to write this and explain the truth about the Muslim religion.

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  9. Hi Amy, found your inspiring article on the liherald.com. As you pointed out Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same overall message and a lot in common. Also I wanted to remind everyone that some 30+ Muslims died that fateful day on 9/11 as they used to work in the twin towers.

    If anyone is interested in learning about the teachings of Islam or just meeting fellow Long Islanders who are Muslims please drop by or reach out to Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury http://www.icliny.com/ or Hamza Masjid in Valley Stream masjidhamza.com. There are several Masajids (mosques) on Long Island. Please reach out! We are all in this together.

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  10. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it widely. You were smart to wait until you could speak calmly and clearly. Ignorance and fear make people feel they’re being attacked, so any direct response is very difficult to pull off successfully, especially in public, where it’s embarrassingly difficult to appear in the wrong.

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