Why I’m Nervous About ‘United 93’


In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

Thanks be to the Lord God, this was published today by the Religion News Service.

COMMENTARY
Why I’m Nervous About `United 93′

Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the darkest days of my adult life. The memories of the pain and fear I felt on that day are still vivid more than four years later.

As an American Muslim, the attacks of Sept. 11 hurt me twice over: first, it hurt to see so many innocent fellow Americans brutally and mercilessly killed. But it hurt even more to learn that those Americans were killed by fanatics murdering in the name of Islam. That hurt still stings my heart.

Enter “United 93.”

Watching the film about the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania would be enormously powerful and tremendously emotional for me. It would give me an opportunity to feel — if only for a moment –the pain of some of the victims of the 9-11 attacks. It would allow me to relive the horror from a different perspective, and share in the national trauma with millions of fellow Americans in a therapeutic, healing way.

And it would make me angry. To watch those “holy warriors” — as those murderous fanatics are wont to call themselves — invoke the name of the Holy God I worship, while killing innocent human beings, would kindle fires of rage in my heart.

To watch those murderous fanatics stand up and yell “Allahu Akbar” (“God is the Greatest”) — the same words I use in daily prayer — would make my blood boil. It makes me terribly angry to see my faith twisted and perverted to the point in which the murder of innocents is justified and glorified as a “holy war.”

Yet, I must be completely honest: I am afraid of going to see this film in the theater.

I am afraid that fellow moviegoers will take their anger out on me, even though I have nothing to do with the terrorism committed in the name of my faith. Perhaps this fear is irrational — Americans are good people, and I should never be afraid of my own people. But a recent incident in Arizona helped rekindle my fear.

On May 2, the Arizona office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that several young Muslim women were verbally abused by two people who said they recently saw “United 93.”

According to the three Muslim women, a middle-aged couple approached them and asked if they were Muslim. When they replied that they were, the couple indicated they had seen “United 93” and then said: “Take off your f***ing burqas and get the f*** out of this country. We don’t want you in this country. Go home.” Ironically, two of the three women are American-born citizens.

Of course, this is an isolated incident, and one anecdote does not a trend make. But recent events in Iraq, the ever increasing tensions with Iran, and the almost weekly release of video and audiotapes from al-Qaida leaders threatening Americans do not help the image of Islam in America.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 25 percent of Americans “admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims.” Nearly half of Americans surveyed had a negative view of Islam. The Post quoted experts who said negative attitudes were “fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists.” All of this makes me nervous.

Yet, herein lies my dilemma. I really want to see the film, but I am afraid of the possible backlash against me and do not want to take chances with my safety. And if I don’t go, I would be giving in to the forces of hate — something I do not want to do.

Perhaps there is a compromise.

If a mosque, for instance, would host a showing of the film, I would definitely go and see the movie. In fact, it would be a perfect opportunity for community outreach. In a poll recently conducted by CAIR, 60 percent of Americans are either “not very” or “not at all” knowledgeable about Islam.

A mosque screening of “United 93,” along with discussions and questions about Islam and terrorism, would go a long way in building bridges of understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans.

It would also show my fellow Americans that the Islam portrayed in “United 93” — the perverted distortion of a few murderous fanatics — is not the true face of my faith.

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