Commentary: Time to rethink how we commemorate 9-11

The (Tacoma) News TribuneSeptember 10, 2010 

Saturday, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, should be a time for solemn remembrance. But perhaps it can be much more.

People of all faiths (or none) were touched by the tragedy, directly or indirectly, and its commemoration is an appropriate time for countering the kind of religious intolerance that warped the terrorists' view of the world and allowed them to rationalize their unthinkable actions.

No religion has a monopoly on intolerance, as we've seen in recent days. Plans made months ago to build an Islamic cultural center two blocks from ground zero in New York City have sparked national controversy, with many saying that the "mosque" is offensive to the victims of 9/11 — even though Muslims were among the dead and one purpose of the cultural center is to counter radicalism.

In Florida, a minister threatens to burn Qurans — sparking threats and demonstrations from Muslims abroad. The Quran-burning apparently has been "suspended" (its status was unclear at press time), but not before inflaming animosities.

Clearly, much work needs to be done. On the opposite page, University of Washington assistant professor Turan Kayaoglu makes an eloquent case for rethinking Sept. 11 as a day for spiritual solidarity, for people of all faiths to come together not only to honor the memory of the victims of 9/11 but to work toward a world where such atrocities are not repeated.

Kayaoglu cites several such efforts by fellow Muslims in America to reach out to the greater community. That's important. Too many Americans see Muslims as insular, apart from the mainstream — and thus frightening. In fact, they are as integrated in daily American life as any other religious minority.

While it is incumbent on Muslims to take an active role in the greater community, the religious majority also has a responsibility. The "majority rules" attitude runs deep — and for many Americans that translates into a sense of entitlement to impose their values.

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