“A plane just crashed into the Twin Towers!”
Silence struck my seventh grade class as our teacher shared this news. Minutes later, we found out another plane crashed into the towers. As I sat mere miles away from Ground Zero, I helplessly peered across the river as black smoke engulfed my city. Little did I know that black smoke would also taint my religion.
In the days, months and years after, I was bombarded with questions about Islam.
“Why do your people hate us?”
“Does your religion really encourage bloodshed?”
“Why don’t you Muslims condemn 9/11?”
Twenty years later, my fellow Muslim Americans and I are still presumed guilty of the heinous crime of 9/11.
Those who presume us guilty perhaps have no idea that the bulk of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims find militant Islamic groups despicable. In fact, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, of which I am an imam, has forcefully denounced every terrorist attack committed in the name of Islam, including 9/11.
Its worldwide head, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has traversed continents, met with world leaders, and spoken to international bodies about Islam’s true peaceful teachings, declaring:
“The evil acts conducted by extremists claiming to be Muslims have nothing to do with the real teachings of Islam. … The very meaning of ‘Islam’ is peace, security and giving a guarantee of protection against all forms of harm and evil.”
His Holiness derives this message of universal peace from the Holy Quran, which states, “Whosoever killed a person, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind” (Chapter 5, Verse 33).
But talk is cheap. “What are you people doing to fix the problem?” you may ask.
Well, Ahmadi Muslims in America are shedding their blood – not to take life, but to save it.
In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Ahmadi Muslims in America launched the “Muslims for Life” campaign. We partnered with national and regional blood centers to host several thousand interfaith drives across America. To date, our blood drives have yielded a collection of more than 70,000 pints of blood and have helped save as many as 200,000 lives.
Let’s put that number into perspective. Since 9/11, 3,658 Americans have been killed worldwide by terrorist attacks; 7,057 U.S service members have been killed in post 9/11 operations. In total, 10,715 total Americans have been killed in terrorist-related attacks since 9/11.
Let’s compare that to the 200,000 lives that a small Muslim community in America has helped save. Ahmadi Muslims have ensured that for every American victim of terrorism since 9/11, 20 American lives are saved.
Recently, the American Red Cross said that there is a “severe blood shortage in America” and that every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Whether you are Muslim or not, we can all agree on the sanctity of human life.
So let’s find a local blood drive near us and preserve the sanctity of life that our enemies are trying to take from us. It’s the least we can do on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Frasat Ahmad is the imam at the Silver Spring, Md.-based national headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA.