Yesterday was September 11. It was the ten year anniversary of that fateful day. I am sure many others are more eloquent on this topic than I am, so I will keep my remarks brief.
Ten years ago on September 11, I had just started my doctorate at the Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard University. I was living in a very cute, if slightly remote beach house in a town called Nahant, outside of Boston. Some workers were doing remodeling repairs on the house. I was home for the day. We had the radio on. I heard the report on the radio. At first, we really thought it was a joke. It was just too difficult to believe that someone could have flown a plane into the twin towers.
We listened to the radio, and finally walked over to a friend's house, where we all sat glued to the television all day. I remember calling all my friends in New York, where I had gone to college, to see if they were safe.
I remember that we had economics class the next day, and the Professor, who was very good, was at a loss for words. I do not really know exactly how 9/11 affected me. However, it affected our family. My sister enlisted in the Army Reserve, and was sent to Guantanamo Bay. I opposed the Gulf War in 1990, and I opposed the one that took place after 9/11. Although I did not support the war in Iraq, I thank our veterans for their loyal service to their country, and they deserve our respect and admiration.
Living in the Middle East now, I guess one thought that I have is that I wish the People of the Book and the Children of Abraham understood each other better. It goes without saying that my American students rarely know anything about Islam. However, now that I am teaching in Egypt, I realize that my Christian and Muslim students do not know much about each others' religion either. I wish that Jews, Christians and Muslims could all educate themselves, and each other about their respective religions. Reading the Bible and the Quran carefully, and with an open mind, and a critical lens would be a great start.
Islam is not the problem. Extremism is the problem. There are as many denominations of Islam as there are of Christianity. The people who committed that atrocity were very far out of the mainstream of Islam, and were roundly condemned by religious leaders from their community.
I guess upon this anniversary, I would like to call for religious tolerance, and education. I also think the US should rethink its support for undemocratic regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Bahrain. These governments incubate religious extremists, oppress women, suppress democracy, and encourage politically intolerant people, like the hijackers of 9/11. The US should carefully rethink its alliances with these authoritarian governments.