Being Muslim in the Age (and now death) of Bin Laden

Ten years ago on September 11th, 2001, I had just moved from New York to Virginia, and was at work babysitting my new next door neighbor’s four-year old kid before I walked her to school for her half-day kindergarten class. Before we left, her mother called, frantically asking me if I’d heard the news and to ensure that I kept her daughter home from school that day. I hadn’t heard anything that bright sunny morning so I turned on the television but couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. The imposing and seemingly unshakeable buildings that had always loomed so large in the recesses of  my memory were ablaze with massive gaping holes in them.

And last Sunday night, I was also at work, when I heard the news that President Obama intended to make an unusual Sunday evening address to the nation. When the news finally broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces, I was stunned and felt a gradual and spreading sense of relief. I didn’t rejoice and I didn’t mourn at the news of his death. However, I did reflect on the enormous loss of life and continued suffering and harm that has occurred and continues to occur throughout the world.

I reflected on my life before September 11th, when I was not Muslim. Religion, much less Islam, was far from my mind. How thankful I am to have become Muslim in the intervening years.

Then I went out into the cool and dark night for a walk and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and that low-grade fear and apprehension that always comes after a significant (usually negative) event with Muslims in the news. As a few cars sped by, I assumed the occupants had probably heard the news on the radio or phone or by text or tweet, and I wondered if like on other occasions one person might  feel emboldened enough to shout out some nonsense in my direction. Thankfully, none did. And feeling the tenseness building in my muscles, I made an effort to relax and once again enjoy the quiet solitude of my walk.

Our fears must be faced, challenged and defeated each day.

On a side note, I wonder what happened to the guy who said he would not shave until Bin Laden was captured.

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