Today marks the twelfth anniversary of the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks that claimed thousands of lives and directly affected thousands more. It is a somber day filled with reverence for those that were lost and reflection for the families, communities, and the countries to which the victims belonged. As we look back twelve years later, the horrific events that occurred are no less disheartening. However, the important and powerful role our communities play in overcoming hardship and sadness is too prominent to be ignored. We must always remember and acknowledge this – especially today.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, people across the country banded together in unprecedented ways to overcome tragedy. Editors of The New York Times nearly a year after the attacks described the situation in New York City thusly:
“These are losses that perhaps allow our lives to reflect more accurately the complexity of the world we live in, and so, in some sense, they are not necessarily to be mourned. The dead we do mourn and will mourn for years to come. As we watch this city change under the weight of that day, and under the weight of ordinary days as well, there’s also that other loss to consider. No one would ever want to reclaim that sense of citywide communion at the price we paid for it. But having paid the price, no one wanted to see it go.”
Unfortunately, twelve years later, that sense of communion the Times editors wrote of continues to be threatened by individuals and organizations that now politicize the events of September 11 in efforts to advance ulterior motives or further espouse hatred of certain groups. The anti-immigrant movement persistently cite security concerns and the possibility of future attacks as a means to demagogue immigrants in America and obstruct positive immigration reform efforts. Other nativist organizations such as the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer specifically target Muslim communities with their rhetoric and demonstrations. This is perhaps best evidenced by the fervor of those protesting the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2010. Since then, AFDI have gone so far as calling for a moratorium on immigration from predominately-Muslim countries.
The divisive efforts at an institutional level like the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policies and surveillance of Muslims are arguably far more effective and discouraging to those who wish for a justice and equality for all of America’s communities.
Anti-Muslim activists across the country will use today as an attempt to capitalize on existing community tension to spread a message of division and intolerance. This itself is a form of extremism motivated by bigotries and intolerance.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, Americans responded to heinous face of extremism by coming together. Today, we must uphold that legacy and continue to work towards a country that embraces and protects all members of its diverse society.