Exercise freedoms, opinions responsibly
I am writing to you as I have been hearing a lot of information through the radio about the recent tragedy in the United States. I have heard something both on television and on the radio that disturbs me very much. Constantly the idea of the terrorists and their supporters that carried out these horrific acts on Tuesday are part of a religious war that the United States does not understand. This never hit me until I saw the memorial service that was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. As I watched this ceremony, which featured different ?representatives/clergyman? of many religions which are practiced in the United States I decided to take a look at what exactly the word religion means. I found the common thread to be that ?religion? was a set of beliefs/ideas. I heard one caller into a radio station state that when the United States assisted Israel, we were getting into the middle of a religious war that we did not understand. There was also a reporter who stated that terrorists who believed they would go to their ?version of heaven? to be with their God by taking American lives, as well as their own, is a difficult enemy to face because they no longer have a regard for their lives and will do everything possible to kill others who they feel are against them.
I thought about beliefs and ideas in America that parallel the ideas of these suicide bombers/terrorists. The first thought that came to mind was our military. In all branches of the military, you have thousands upon thousands of men and women who join the military knowing that at any time their country may call upon them to give their lives to protect the ideas and beliefs of this country. The central idea being freedom. Not only freedom of being able to try and make a better life for themselves, but the freedom to believe in many different ideas. I also thought of the reserves of each of the branches of the military. These are also men and women who sign up knowing that the only reason they are signing up is that one day their country may call upon them to do whatever they can to help our great nation. This can range from assisting in the search and rescue efforts in New York to giving aid to countries far away from their home that need food and other supplies to live in the face of their own disasters.
All of these brave (and I do not use the term loosely) Americans are signing up to, if needed, give their lives for what they believe in and this country. These men and women will equally give their lives for destroying anyone that gets in the way of what the United States represents. I am not sure of how many people there are that represent the same ideas held by the group these terrorists belonged to, but I know that the U.S. military contains thousands of people equally willing to die for our own beliefs which makes this country so great.
My numbers, however, do not include the number of people who, like myself, are not enlisted in any branch of service or reserves. However, if ever needed would willingly go into battle for this country and give our lives to make sure the children and all citizens of this country will be able to exercise the same freedoms we have been given. I would also bet this number to be just a fraction of the total individuals willing to give their life for their country when an atrocity such as that which has just occurred is directed toward our country.
Thousands of innocent people lost their lives on Tuesday because they lived in the most accepting country in the world. A country in which freedoms are not an idea, but guaranteed. I am sure that there are many people in this country who, just like me, would be fighting for the first spot in line to have the privilege of being able to defend the freedoms we so often take for granted.
So I say to these people, who claim that there is no way to fight any enemy who is willing to die for their religious beliefs, that they have sadly underestimated the United States of America. While our freedom is not a religion (however, I would willingly argue that patriotism is close), it is a belief for which many of our forefathers have given their lives to protect, and it is a belief in which many Americans will still gladly give our own lives to protect.
Another caller mentioned that we (the United States) granted the terrorists access to our country, trained them in our flight schools, gave them driver?s licenses to drive to the airports and also gave them jobs so they could do all of the aforementioned things. It is the acceptance of foreigners that shows how great our nation is. The Statue of Liberty is this country?s symbol of saying that everyone is welcome.
Inscribed on the statue is ?Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door.?
What this caller is then blaming is the psychic ability of our customs officers to notice those who will one day try to destroy this great nation and those who will attempt to make it greater. We are not able to determine the paths humans will take once they enter our country, but it is our acceptance of them that maintains the ideas of our great nation. A few years ago in Oklahoma, we saw that threats come also from those born in this country. I thought about what this caller was saying and thought to myself, if the United States did not accept individuals from other nations into this country, would he be calling into this radio station as a citizen of the United States claiming that we too often grant access to the wrong people?
I would like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to express my opinion (which is a right guaranteed by our constitution) and the possibility it may be shared with others. We all are praying for the families, friends and anyone who is directly and indirectly touched by the tragic events that have occurred in what I feel to be the greatest nation in the world.
Corey Milburn is a junior majoring in business management.
Avoid retribution, judgements of Arab and Muslim Americans
5:39 p.m. Wednesday. The television is on, but I?m not listening anymore. The constant barrage of information spewing forth from various electronic media concerning Tuesday?s tragedies continues to assault our nation. I wish it would stop, yet the reality is that it will not. The incessant bombardment rolls on, and I, along with my fellow Americans, can do little to divert it from entering our hearts and minds.
Now the question that plagues us, ?What are we, as an American nation, to do in retaliation to this egregious injustice that unfolded before us yesterday?? Many Americans are calling for justice. Yet, what motives lie behind the outspoken demagogues of our great society? It is not justice that ?they? seek, rather it is retribution: Retribution for the horrible acts that were committed against our way of life.
Driving in my car with the radio on, I hear of how certain people pronounce that ?we should turn Afghanistan into a parking lot.? Is this really the solution? Should our American need to ?flex our muscle? take precedence over human life? What about the women? What about the children? There are people in the media that say that they are ?guilty by association.?
Imagine that, a small child, innocent in the ways of the world, should be trampled underfoot for the great cause of our American need for closure. Do not mistake my intentions here; I, as with all other citizens of this great country, want to see the responsible parties brought to justice. Whether it be Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, or another terrorist faction from elsewhere on the globe, we will no doubt track them down. They will answer for the atrocities that they have committed, yet this must be done for the cause of justice, not vengeance.
Also, in response to the ridiculous charge of ?guilt by association? placed on Arab Americans and peoples of the Islamic community in the United States: it simply must cease and desist. These people are law-abiding citizens who are under scrutiny for a crime they did not commit. In New York, shortly after the attacks, Muslim women were harassed on the streets. Why? They did not pilot the planes. We, as a society, are structured on ideals such as equality, unity and ?justice for all,? yet are so quick to point the finger. Are these the ethics we were raised with?
Being a religious studies major, I know that the majority of our society is comprised of faith values that speak of morality, humility, humanity, charity and compassion. Where is that for our Arab-American counterparts who are so quickly to be labeled as ?the enemy?? Almost all people in some way, shape or form are aware of ?The Golden Rule,? which comes into human ethics from virtually every belief system found throughout the world. Even the humanist or atheist will agree to the terms of ?doing to their neighbor what they would have done to themselves.?
Then why? Why the blame? In times of crises such as these we as Americans must bond together, no matter what one?s neighbor?s creed or ethnicity may be. Should we really blame them? Or other Islamic communities around the globe for the actions of a band of terrorists? The answer is simple; the answer is no.
I was glad to hear this afternoon that at least one voice among the people clearly expounded on this disposition further today. As I rode home, I heard Secretary of State Colin Powell speaking on this matter. He said that many Americans have taken these attackers ?out of context? and asked for the American people to not lay blame towards their fellow Americans that are of an Arabian descent. We must remember that they are not the enemy, for the enemy of the American people and the purveyors of these tragedies are still at large.
I ask that my fellow students, faculty members and anyone else who may read this take heart; the parties responsible shall be brought to justice, yet it must be done without exacting a retribution against people who are labeled to be ?guilty by association.?
Ryan Haczynski is a senior majoring in religious studies and classics.
All U.S. citizens touched by tragedy
My eyes blur and my heart drops with every devastating image that I see. My nation ? our nation ? attacked in such a horrific way. I feel confused and rudely awakened. How could this happen to us? Why would somebody do this? How will we go back to being normal?
These questions repeat themselves through my mind, and, yet, as I turn to my fellow Americans, I am pushed away and cast out. I am rejected because I, an American born in Manhattan, am Muslim.
I converted to this beautiful faith my first year at the University of South Florida because I found peace and understanding in it. Islam is a religion of peace. Allah (God) teaches that the best among us are those who strive for peace and that the most hated by Allah are the ones who harm a fellow human.
Those men who so viciously attacked our nation ? who claim to be Muslim ? are not true Muslims. They have taken a religion and slandered it with their cowardly acts. The true kind, peaceful Muslims are the ones you see in your community.
These true Muslims can be seen in the soup kitchens filling a bowl for the needy, donating blood to save a life, holding the hand of a patient as he or she waits to be helped. These true Muslims are the ones who can be found at USF.
The Muslim students at USF are heartbroken by the tragedies that have occurred. They are mourning alongside every other American. The Muslim students at USF have always had an open hand and heart to every student on campus. Yearly, the Muslim students organize Islamic Awareness Month, a month in which the Muslim students try and let everyone see what Islam is all about ? peace.
The Muslim students also have a weekly meeting that is open to anyone, regardless of religion. The only thing somebody has to do to come is be willing to say ?hello.? These same Muslim students now need a shoulder to cry on for they too are deeply saddened by the events. These same students are now praying daily for peace and serenity once more in our homeland. No Muslim that you see would ever condone these hateful crimes. On the contrary, they wish for justice to be served. Therefore, please don?t condemn the Muslims who have done nothing but pray for peace.
I implore each of you, whatever your faith, to realize that Muslims as a whole are not to blame for the atrocities that have occurred. I know that we are all angry, scared and confused, but that energy can be channeled into love and support to help heal our nation.
Our nation and our wills have been shaken, but they have not been broken. America, the country that so many have come to call home, will pull through and come out stronger in the end.
Rose Munoz is a junior majoring in criminology and English.
Muslims proud to be Americans
The day following the horrible tragedy left me with a very deep pain and concern. First and foremost, I was shocked along with the rest of the nation, and my heart went out to the victims and their families. It brought me back to three years ago when I experienced Israeli bombings in Beirut while I was on summer vacation. The fear and appreciation of life that I experienced that summer all came back to me on Sept. 11, 2001, in a very eerie and real way. I do not condone any type of violence against civilians and neither does my religion, Islam.
However, I knew that this was going to have extremely negative aftershocks for the brothers and especially sisters in my Islamic community. I dreaded displaced aggression against Muslims by people who were not educated about the situation or our religion. I didn?t go to USF the next day just to ?play it safe? but I knew I could not hide forever. The following day I went back to school with some reserve but there was nothing that was going to stop me.
On my way to school, I had cars beep at me (I doubt in a friendly way). Nonetheless, it didn?t phase me because I expected much more when I got on campus. I found my friends in front of the library and I asked if anyone was harassed in any way. One of my friends woke up that morning to find the statement ?F-Muslims? spray painted on her garage and mailbox and I was very upset. Other than that everything seemed to be fine. People were very understanding and friendly with me.
It touched me to see that people weren?t quick to blame or take their anger out on me. They were educated enough to understand that Muslims are suffering along with the rest of the nation. Many people came up to me and expressed their disdain for ?ignorant? people and some even apologized on their behalf. I was very proud to be an American Thursday.
Layelle Saad is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.
Backlash undeserving against Muslims
At the time of the tragedy, I was attending one of my classes, and as I exited, I noticed a large group of students gathered around a television in the hallway. I made my way through the crowd and to the television. What I saw, I refused to believe. I was shocked.
Feelings of both rage and sorrow boiled in me; rage towards the terrorists who perpetrated this crime and sorrow for the tragic loss of innocent life.
After the initial shock had worn off, though, I realized that there was going to be an inevitable backlash against Muslim and Arab Americans.
I am a Muslim American. I am an Arab American. I was born and raised in the United States. I feel the same rage that most Americans feel, and yet, for the past week or so, my community has been the target of numerous hate crimes.
The criminals who committed these acts of terror took the religion that I so dearly love and perverted it for their own shallow political ends. And now I am being singled out because my fellow countrymen make the false assumption that those criminals and I are the same. It is imperative that we do not let vengeance blind our eyes and confuse our thought.
To single out Arab and Muslim Americans is to compromise one of the great ideals that this nation has struggled so long for: tolerance.
Bisher Tarabishy is a junior majoring in biology.
Muslims seek peace, just as other religions
?Peace be upon you …? (Salam wa alaykum). That is the phrase that is said every time Muslims meet or part with others. This simple four-word phrase illustrates the foundations of Islam ? peace (?salam? ? ?Islam,?same root word). When I think that every Muslim greets friends or strangers alike with these heartfelt words of peace, it makes me sad to know that people could misunderstand Islam as anything except a peace-loving religion and way of life.
I am an American Muslim, born and raised in Florida. Never before have I felt ?strange? in my native land. Although I dress with full Islamic cover, I have never before felt threatened or out of place. I held my head up high as I walked across campus, through the mall or in the park. I welcomed people?s many questions concerning my dress and my beliefs. I never once felt like a stranger in my own land.
Now suddenly my life has changed. I no longer feel safe to walk outside, even simply to go to my classes or the grocery store.
For the first time, I notice people?s stares of anger and perhaps even hatred. I shake my head in disbelief as I hear about ?hate crimes? occurring across the country with misdirected anger at innocent Muslims. I wonder what the near future holds.
Like all the people around the world, I too am mourning the extremely sad and disgusting events that took thousands of people?s lives and changed them forever. However, instead of being allowed to mourn along with the rest of my fellow citizens, I am now fearful that ignorant people will lash out against Muslims across the nation.
Unfortunately, there is not enough distinction placed between the crazed madmen and the peace-loving Muslims. Crazy people exist in all walks of life. It saddens me that too often people generalize when it comes to Muslims. There are people who call themselves ?Christians? or ?Jews? and yet commit awful acts of hatred.
Similarly there are people who call themselves ?Muslims? and do not follow the peaceful teachings of Islam. So why is it that an entire religion should be disgraced when misguided madmen do awful things?
I pray that God will be with all the people who are suffering because of these acts of terror. My eyes fill up with tears every time I see those horrid pictures go through my mind. I sincerely hope that my classmates and fellow citizens realize that Muslims are just as hurt and saddened by this act as everyone else.
Hopefully as Americans, we will all realize that acts of hatred bring nothing but destruction. I send my deepest sympathy to all the people affected by this horrendous crime. May peace and justice be restored soon and may innocent people be protected.
As a Muslim, I end by wishing that ?peace be upon you all.?
Amal Kurdi is a junior double majoring in communication and Islamic studies.