One way for Muslims to overcome bin Laden’s legacy

Not long ago, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, a man manufactured by an agenda of hate and extremism, ended the lives … Continued

Not long ago, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, a man manufactured by an agenda of hate and extremism, ended the lives of many innocent people in Norway, largely fueled by his hatred for people who support openness to Muslims. To me, as an 18-year-old American Muslim, Breivik’s deplorable act is connected to the legacy of hate and extremism left behind by Osama bin Laden. Breivik’s hatred of Muslims was a mirror of bin Laden’s hatred of the West.

This is the legacy that my generation inherits, and as we begin the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, I believe it’s incumbent upon all of us to meditate upon how we can shake off this history to mold a new future. Muslims need to take back their faith from the hands of extremists. Those who aren’t Muslim need to stop thinking bin Laden represented all the people of my faith.

Our generation is defined by September 11, 2001. On that day, Breivik was a young man in his early 20s. I was in a third grade class at North Elementary in Morgantown, W. Va., talking to my best friend, Eli, dreading the beginning of school. It was a small classroom, so the voices of numerous conversations carried through the air. Soon, homeroom sounded like recess. I was nine years old, so I liked talking about W.W.E. wrestling and Pokémon. I wasn’t old enough to come to grips with the fact that wrestling was, for the most part, a soap opera for guys; and I wasn’t old enough to put “childish things” away by giving up my love of Pokémon for the new Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards. So when I heard my teacher say, “Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center,” I immediately thought, “Those pilots must have been blind.” It took me a couple of years to realize that those nineteen hijackers were certainly blinded—blinded by a man who preached a perverse interpretation of religion, my religion: Islam.

On Sept. 11, 2001 as ordered by Osama bin Laden, a man whom the world–nor I–will ever forgive, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:46 a.m., followed by United Airlines Flight 175 that hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. In an October 2011 interview, bin Laden said, “The towers are economic power.” To him, his act symbolized the imminent fall of Western globalization. But, to me, and the moderate Muslim community, his act symbolizes how one man can influence a global hatred for an entire religion and the cultures, traditions, and people it encompasses. That September morning, bin Laden became the ambassador of Islam, and the Muslim community immediately fell into shame.

“When teachers ask about the attacks, say it was bad, and do not tell her you are a Muslim,” a Pakistani mother might say to her five-year-old daughter. “Don’t talk about politics in class if it has anything to do with Islam,” a Palestinian father might say to his 15-year-old son.

Muslims in America saw their identity vanishing, and it was due to a man almost 7,000 miles away. Muslims adopted a new found hatred for their own religion, and people began hating Muslims for simply being Muslims.

My sister, Safiyyah, and I produced a song, “Mr. al-Qaeda,” (listen to it here: to reflect the grievance of so many Muslims—a grievance caused by the September 11th terrorist attacks. But it’s a grievance not simply against the attacks, but for the way it represented their religion. The song embodies the story of a man whose son is stabbed for being a Muslim. To many in the public, Muslims were now seen as ignoble murderers, led by the lustful promise of virgins in afterlife as an avail of martyrdom. 

Two planes crashed,

Up went the Terror level.

Son got stabbed,

In a high school veranda

Thanks a whole lot

Mr. al-Qaeda

In the song, the father contemplates suicide, because he wants to be with his son in heaven. His spirit is completely shattered, and he finds himself asking the classic Shakespearean question, “to be or not to be.”

I ain’t got no religion

‘Cause it got hijacked

With radicalism.

Every gain of happiness and content

I credited to my son.

Now thanks to bin Laden,

His life is done.

Rather than be defeated, I believe, we, as Muslims, must continue to strive to take back our faith from the violent interpretation of bin Laden and the violent image that people such as Breivik have of Islam.

Samir A. Nomani is a rising college freshman at the College of the Holy Cross.
He wrote
“Mr. al-Qaeda”
and sang it with his sister, Safiyyah Z. Nomani, a rising college junior at Mt. Holyoke College.


Written by

  • YEAL9

    The real Islam:

    Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/ plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

    And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni “Wannabees” of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

  • pauldonnelly

    Nice job, Samir. Some of us observed immediately after 9/11 that if we are truly not at war with Islam, then it is necessary for us to be able to say what IS the Islam with which we are not at war. You, and a handful of other Muslims are doing just that — like Tariq Radaman (who was banned from the US for a time, for no good reason), who argues that the us vs. them ideology which typifies much of the faith is not in the Koran at all. He explains that the House of War (infidels) perpetually fighting the House of Obedience (Muslims) just pictures the world a thousand years ago — what is actually in the Koran is the House of Witness, in which believers and the unfaithful actually compete to do good.

    Beats suicide bombers motivated by the prospect of orgies in the afterlife, don’t ya think?

    The difficult part for Muslims, particularly in the US, will be to reconcile and renew the promise of your faith in self-government, where unbelievers have the same rights that you do — and where your faith confers no special rights. Historically, Muslim-dominated countries (think the Ottoman Empire) have always treated unbelievers as second-class citizens: then again, this was also true for what used to be called “Christendom”. Since you’re at Holy Cross, you may want to learn about “the Americanist heresy”, the only heresy formally condemned by a Pope which originated in the United States.

    It teaches that civics has a moral value in itself: what Catholics went through in America in the last century confronts Muslims now. You are part of the solution, insha’allah.

  • cfjacobs1

    Samir, an eloquent blog that fills me with admiration for your courage and hope that your voice will resonate with your generation and around the globe.

  • gburkhart

    Well said, Samir. Islam has indeed been hijacked and Muslims must take it back. What’s your plan?

  • BlackEyedSusan

    Please don’t paint those 9-11 hijackers as victims “blinded”. Influenced, yes, but ultimately they made up their own minds and catiupulted themselves into a perverse and ungodly action. Islam is a bankrupt ideology. If you don’t agree, name ONE Muslim country that is in peace – it is a “religion of peace” right? The anti-Muslim sentiment is a mirror to Muslims of their anti-Western hatred. Why do “thank” bin Laden so much in your song instead of railing against him? Why is a Muslim attending a Catholic school yet stating that he wants to “take back” *his* religion?

  • Arjuna1

    To Samir, Safiyyah, and all who have suffered from bin Laden’s sick concept of serving “God’s intentions”: “Christians” are equally blind to the hypocrisy involved in a ll the wars our Popes and Kings have sent us forth, to kill our fellow man; and NEVER for spiritual mission, but only and ever for territorial/economic suzerainty.
    We, in the here-and-now, must Forgive these foibles of humanity; and do Our part to heal our collective blindness, by seeing each other in the light of compassion.

  • MelodyMoezzi

    Absolutely brilliant! Thank you SO much for this. You speak so well and for so many. God bless you.

  • alliswithinu

    Kuwait (but you probably argue saddam’s invasion in 1991)
    pretty much everywhere, with little natural resources or had an strategic importance, or agreed to play ball.
    One could argue: how does a 200+ year old country got involved in so many wars? I mean it seems that every 5-10 years US find itself in a middle of a war. Lastly, you people of the book, y’all are crazy enough to believe in the same heaven and hell, but at the same time have been hating each other since day one. The absence of the 72 virgin won’t be the only disappointment when this planet finally gets rid of you all.

  • chtaylor

    The voice of love, mercy and compassion…