Shamshad Ahmad Albany Times Union 9/19/10

This past week or so was a very difficult time for American Muslims, particularly the passing of the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

We braced ourselves to be targeted, attacked, vilified and harassed. Instead, we found ourselves the recipients of warm and sincere support from many non-Muslim Americans across the spectrum and nationwide.

Such support was wholeheartedly appreciated, especially in the face of the anti-Muslim and extremely racist sentiments that were at their peak from certain factions in our country. We breathed a sigh of relief when the day passed relatively peacefully and nothing terrible happened.

The vitriolic opposition to the Cordoba Initiative, the vandalization and desecration of several mosques around the country, assaults on Muslims or seemingly-Muslim individuals, the proposed Quran burning by the Rev. Terry Jones in Florida and the Rev. Fred Phelps in Kansas, along with many other displays of bigotry and racism directed toward the American Muslim community, have made us concerned, depressed and scared.

We are feeling the undercurrents of a dangerous movement that has started to evolve, which may demonize Muslims and marginalize them for some time. It is a very scary feeling. Many of the politicians defeated in the last election seem to have sensed that the exploitation of people’s emotions and fears may help their chances: Islamophobia and bigotry may be the shortcut to increasing their voting tally and their chances of success in November. All these factors put together, it seems, have culminated in putting the blame once again on Muslims and making us the boogeymen.

It was heartening to see that practically every reasonable individual and institution condemned and opposed the hateful bigotry planned by Jones and Phelps. Religious leaders of all denominations branded the planned Quran burning as an absurd and immoral act. Many leaders and their organizations emphasized the constitutional stance on pluralism, diversity, equality and inclusion.

In the minds of Muslims, this only served to enhance trust and respect for other religions, and hopefully, pave the way for increased mutual understanding and inter-religious interactions in the future.

In correctly reading the racist currents that have made their way to the fore, many responsible and fair-minded citizens came forward to strongly oppose the rightist efforts to treat Muslims as “others,” not equals, and to deny them their religious and civil rights. A rally by such citizens was organized on Sept. 11 in New York City, near City Hall, to counter a rally occurring at the same time, one block away.

The other rally was said to be in protest of the Cordoba Initiative, but was actually a medley of anti-Muslim rhetoric under many names, all under the Tea Party banner.

I, along with 43 others, all but nine of whom were non-Muslims, went in a chartered bus from Albany to attend the rally. I gave the welcome address to the attendees of the rally, which numbered around 3,000 in my estimate — the overwhelming majority of whom were non-Muslim. I felt real pride in addressing this audience, welcoming them as people of conscience who chose to stand on a high moral ground in their belief that Muslims in this society have the same rights as everyone else.

I said to the crowd, “We, American Muslims, are here to live. We are an integral part of this society, and we want to share in the well-being, prosperity, and concerns of this society. American Muslims did not cause 9/11. Please do not make us a scapegoat and treat us as a ‘they.’ Let us share our grief over 9/11, and mourn together. Let us put hatred away and live together as Americans.”

The crowd agreed, expressing cheers. I hope and pray that one day very soon all Americans will as well.

Shamsad Ahmad is president of Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany and a physics professor at the University at Albany. He is the author of Rounded Up — Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9/11.” His e-mail address is