Monday, September 11, 2006

rashad byrdsong: 9/11... five years later

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rashad Byrdsong, 57, executive director of the Community Empowerment Association, an East End community organization committed to social change in city neighborhoods, is an African-American Muslim. Here's his story, as told to Post-Gazette reporter Moustafa Ayad:

I felt a numbness. I remember watching it on the television in my office. Was this war? Or was this some isolated event? Where was the next attack going to be? We as Muslims had similar feelings. No matter, Muslims or Christians, as human beings, we still have the same feelings. I was shocked.

Islam is a peaceful religion. All I see is a very peaceful and engaging religion that is a deeply personal relationship between me and Allah.

Why should I have to defend my religion?

Unfortunately there always has to be a fear factor. It's a way to mobilize a social concept and social thought into an unfavorable environment that keeps people fragmented.

It is all happening out of hysteria. Instead of perpetuating the fear, we need to address that fear.

African-Americans have an understanding of the history of racism and segregation that challenges minorities in this country. Black folks had been detained for 400 years after all. Immigrants were shocked with the backlash. Immigrant Muslims have certain types of expectations coming to this country and the reaction after 9/11 was a culture shock.

Islam has been indicted. These things happen in cycles. It's our turn. Everybody has had a turn. Yesterday, it was the communists, maybe tomorrow it's the poor Appalachians, but in the history of this country there has always been an enemy and right now it's Islam and Muslims.

To indict a whole people, a whole religion, based on the actions of a very small extremist group is counterproductive. The whole religion of Islam and Muslims are not responsible for the actions of an extremist sub-sect.

When you talk about terrorism it's not just a specific ethnic and religious group. Anyone who fits that particular profile must be a terrorist and that in turn becomes the profile of the religion. That is where the hysteria leads us. It's not terrorism that is holding people hostage -- it's fear.

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