Saturday, November 04, 2006

9/11 – A view from the other side

On September 11, 2001 a series of events took place that would eventually see 2,973 people die because of a series of terrorist attacks. Within a few hours the world would watched the events unfold as reports of the tragedies flowed freely from every media outlet. Whether it be print, film or internet, we were deluged with vivid imagery and reports that haunted us, we were asked questions that that could not be answered. For 5 years I have read the heroic tales of rescue workers, who risked their lives, and I have seen the stories of the wicked Al-Qaeda conspirators, and I have even seen the victims rise to the level of martyr.

As a Muslim, and American I have witnessed the prejudice, been asked the questions, and suffered innumerable assumptions. Oft forgotten in the post 9/11 Islamophobic tendencies of the media, is that the majority of Muslims condemned the actions that transpired on that day. For the families of several hundred victims the grief and sorrow, anguish and despair has been compounded by constant suspicion, hatred and prejudice. For these families I have written this article.

For the Muslim victims of 9/11 I offer remembrance, and tribute to those who were lost but should never be forgotten. May Allah bless them and have mercy upon them all.

A 23-year-old New York City police cadet who was a part-time ambulance driver, incoming medical student, and devout Muslim disappeared on September 11. Law enforcement officials came to his family, seeking him for questioning in relation to the terrorist attacks. Salman Hamdani’s family never believed he would be involved but were forced to dl with the suspicions for over 6 months, until his remains were finally identified. He was found near the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him, presumably doing everything he could to help those in need

On the morning of September 11, 2001 Mohammad Chowdhury prayed salat-al-fajr with his wife Baraheen Ashrafi who was 9 months pregnant. This was the last time she saw him. Baraheen gave birth just 48 hours later to their son Farqad.

Rahma Salie was 7 months pregnant and traveling to California with her husband Michael Theodoridis (who was also a Muslim) to attend the wedding of a friend. Their story did not end when American Airlines #11 slammed into the North Tower; Rahma's name was initially put on an FBI watch list, because her "Muslim-sounding" name was on the passenger manifest, and her travel patterns were similar to those of the hijackers (she was a computer consultant living in Boston). Although her name was eventually removed from the list, several of her family members were barred from taking flights to her memorial service.

Shabir Ahmed immigrated to America from Bangladesh in hopes of finding a better life. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but as a devoted father of 3, he settled for a job as a waiter in the Windows of the World restaurant to provide for his family, ensuring that his kids would continue on to college. He left behind a wife 3 children.

Tariq Amanullah was assistant vice president of computer information technology at Fiduciary Trust Co. International, and a team member of the ICNA website. Known to his family for coming home after long hours of work, and sitting to help his children with their studies, Tariq was also earnestly interested in world affairs, and following the cricket scores back in his native home of Pakistan. He leaves a wife and 2 children.

Touri Bolourchi was a retired nurse born in Tehran, who spoke 6 languages. She moved to the United States with her daughter in 1979 while her husband, Akbar Bolourchi joined them two years later. She had just spent two weeks with her daughter and two grandsons in Boston although her husband said his wife had not been to Boston for two years because she was afraid of airplanes. Touri was not supposed to be aboard Flight 175, but she decided to stay a few extra days in Boston to visit her daughter and two grandchildren while her husband, Abkar, flew home to Los Angeles on the flight she, too, had originally planned to take.

When the 32-year-old Nezam Ahmad Hafiz, who was appointed captain of the American Cricket Society last year, flashed his toothy grin, people took notice. A claims analyst for Marsh & McLennan, he was recruited by the Guyanese national team at 19, and toured Barbados, Jamaica and other islands throughout the West Indies, and the Caribbean. Nezam lived for the moment, “He had a certain strut, a certain bounce." And he never planned for the future saying 'tomorrow would provide for itself.

Khalid Shahid, of Union, N.J., arrived at work unusually early on Tuesday to attend a company meeting at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 103rd floor of World Trade Center. Son of a Pakistani father and Colombian mother, Shahid, graduated Montclair State College and was a talented tennis player. Life was looking promising for Shahid, he was engaged to be married in November and had just bought a house in Mount Olive, N.J.

Mohammed Shajahan had a home and young family in comfortable Spring Valley, N.Y., and commuted five days a week to a job in lower Manhattan. There, he was an up-and-coming computer administrator for the insurance brokerage Marsh & McLennan on the 96th floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center. He helped two brothers immigrate to New York and constantly was engaged in giving assistance of all kinds to friends, family members -— even people he barely knew —- in his hometown of Asadpur in southeast Bangladesh. Trying to live the ‘American dream’ He operated a convenience store for a time, studied computer science at Pace University, before working his way up to a good-paying job at Marsh & McLennan. Shajahan and wife Mansura were active members of the Mosque of Jerrahi Order in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. where the mosque operates an ambitious social outreach program, and Shajahan was an enthusiastic volunteer. according to sister-in-law Ruby Zigrino. He left behind a wife and 4 children.

In the end putting a face on victimization is just as easy as putting a face on terrorism. “If any one slew a person… it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” Al-Maeda 5:32

Partial List of Muslim 9/11 Victims:

Note: This list is as yet incomplete and unconfirmed. It has been compiled from the Islamic Circle of North America, the Newsday victims database, and reports from other major news organizations.

Samad Afridi, Ashraf Ahmad, Shabbir Ahmad, Umar Ahmad, Azam Ahsan, Ahmed Ali, Tariq Amanullah, Touri Bolourchi, Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury, Abdul K. Chowdhury, Mohammad S. Chowdhury, Jamal Legesse Desantis, Ramzi Attallah Douani, SaleemUllah Farooqi, Syed Fatha, Osman Gani, Mohammad Hamdani, Salman Hamdani, Aisha Harris, Shakila Hoque, Nabid Hossain, Shahzad Hussain, Talat HussainMohammad Shah Jahan, Yasmeen Jamal, Mohammed Jawarta, Arslan Khan Khakwani, Asim Khan, Ataullah Khan, Ayub Khan, Qasim Ali Khan, Sarah Khan, Taimour Khan, Yasmeen Khan, Zahida Khan, Badruddin Lakhani, Omar Malick, Nurul Hoque Miah, Mubarak Mohammad, Boyie Mohammed, Raza Mujtaba, Omar NamoosMujeb Qazi, Tarranum Rahim, Ehtesham U. Raja, Ameenia Rasool, Naveed Rehman, Yusuf Saad, Rahma Salie & unborn child, Michael Theodoridis, Shoman Samad, Asad Samir, Khalid Shahid, Mohammed Shajahan, Naseema Simjee, Jamil Swaati, Sanober Syed, Robert Elias Talhami, W. Wahid

Please forgive me for any names I have missed, understand there are many more people missing, however a truly complete compilation of the Muslim victims has yet to be complete.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Niqab Controversy

The flames of controversy over religious and individual rights continue to burn, the darkened embers of our Ummah providing the fuel for those whishing to stoke the fire.

The latest furor comes from England where certain politicians have taken a stand against the Muslimah’s right to wear niqab. Recent comments by Jack Straw, the MP for Blacburn, caused controversy and conflict when he called on Muslim women to stop wearing veils. Furthermore he said the coverings made “better, positive relations” between communities “more difficult”. He said the practice of concealing features was “a visible statement of separation and of difference”.

A statement of this nature is misinformed, illogical and selectively discriminatory based on ones religious beliefs. Considering that 30% of his constituency is Muslim, one would think Mr. Straw would be more responsible; Straw should realize that his job is to represent the interests of the constituency not to alienate one third of it.

But Jack Straw is not alone, indeed more British politicians feel the need to defend Mr. Straw and his decision to ask women to remove their niqab when the come to him as part of his constituency. Another MP, Harriet Harman recently said “Wearing a full face veil harms women's participation in society and effectively bars them from becoming an MP” and thus women should not wear the niqab. Trevor Phillips, who heads the Commission for Racial Equality was also asked about whether full-face veils should be allowed in the classroom, and went so far as to say "If I were the head teacher in that school, I would probably say that veils should not be worn in the classroom."

I do not know what I should feel more, anger at the arrogance of these people or sadness at the ignorance and misunderstanding that they possess. They defend and justify their positions base on the idea “If you can’t read their face that does provide some separation.” However this statement has no credibility under any scrutiny. Jewish men wear the yamikahs, Catholic nuns where a habbitt, Ethiopian and Indian woman wear forms of head coverings, Hindu men where turbans, all of which are meant to offer a form of separation based on ones own cultural or religious beliefs. Each individual uses their clothing or looks as a means to identify their beliefs it is our ability to see this and understand which allows us to deal appropriately with each person base on our understanding of their customs.

The inability to adapt combined with ineffective communication will set cultural reform back decades if it is not corrected. Let them stop talking about the intolerance of others and take a closer look at their own intolerances. A society which decry’s women for dressing modestly, celebrates women for dressing scantily, and judges people base on their looks rather then their actions is one small step away from the oppression and persecution indicative of the medieval dark ages.