A student emailed me with a comment on yesterday’s blog on September 11 — she works in a local hotel and she had the following personal encounter yesterday:
“…There was a group of Muslims practicing Ramadan in our hotel’s event room and a man and his family came up me and asked ‘What type of people are in the event room?’ I was slightly confused when I was asked the question but then I knew what he meant, and I told him that there were Muslims praying… and I was shocked when the man told me that they have no right to be praying in the event room on 9/11. I told that man that they have every right to be praying in that room. I will probably get suspended at work for my comment, but it amazes me how people are so ignorant. I think some people need to remember that 9/11 didn’t just affect the whites, and it saddens me that people still feel like that. I remember a year after 9/11 took place, my mother (who is Guatemalan)…when we got to ground zero to pay our respects for the victims my mother started to crying…”
I sure hope that our student does not suffer any consequences at work for doing the right thing by standing up to prejudice like this. One of the saddest ancillary effects of 9/11 is the deepened prejudice in this country against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent. The fact that Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist band in Al Qaeda claim a radical form of Islam does not mean that the Islamic religion is evil, or that all Muslims are murderous fanatics. Students of history know that every major religion suffers through periods when extremists use religion in depraved ways to justify murderous ends. Sadly, though, for too many Americans, bigotry is not an historical artifact but a daily way of life.
Prejudice, racism, sexism, religious bigotry and so many other forms of bias against people who are not like “us” — whomever “us” may be — continue to be the root causes of so much violence and suffering in our nation as well as globally. That’s one of the reasons why I find it so disappointing that our presidential election is all into name-calling and personal attacks rather than taking a higher road to discuss the real issues. The candidates should not be pandering to the least-common-denominator prejudices of American pop culture. Like the true leaders they claim to be, they should call the electorate to rise above obsession with personal characteristics to address the large challenges we face together as a human community.
“What type of people are in the event room?” Human beings — that type of people. The only type we have. Let’s be talking about how to improve the quality of life for all of them.