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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Five years removed from Sept. 11, 2001, the Bucknell community recalled the terrorist attacks in different ways.
Some attended a talk and candlelight vigil Monday evening. Some sponsored American flags on the ElaineLangoneCenter lawn commemorating each death in the 9/11 attacks. One alumnus took part in a panel discussion on the PBS program News Hour with Jim Leher about the impact of the day's events.
President Brian C. Mitchell reminded those attending a 9/11 anniversary talk at Rooke Chapel that four Bucknellians died in the attacks. One of them is highlighted in a film documentary that is scheduled to air several times on cable television.
While Americans share a common experience of terrifying images and feelings of sadness and anger over the loss of innocent lives, those feelings shouldn’t translate into violence, said a pre-eminent expert on Muslim culture.
Addressing a crowded Rooke Chapel, Akbar Ahmed, professor of international relations and Islamic studies at AmericanUniversity, urged audience members to foster dialogue and understanding in order to achieve peace with Muslim countries.
“I would like Muslims to visit synagogues and churches,” said Ahmed, who lost a cousin on 9/11. “I would like Christians and Jews to visit mosques.”
With 1.5 billion Muslims — almost a quarter of the world’s population — it’s essential for the U.S. to tolerate and to understand their culture, he said.
Through dialogue and understanding, Ahmed said, the U.S. can begin to create alliances with Muslim countries. “What we need to round this off is friendship. When friendship forms, that changes everybody,” he said.
This is a time when Americans, Israelis, Muslims and Palestinians believe their countries are under siege, he said, which has led to violence against their perceived enemies. "We’re seeing far too much violence,” Ahmed said.
Too often Americans harbor prejudices against Muslims, he said, which can manifest itself in the form of racial profiling. People should be more sensitive about racial profiling that labels every Muslim as a potential terrorist.
“You cannot win their hearts and their minds while treating them with contempt,” Ahmed said.
Islam as a religion doesn’t teach hatred and is based on many of the same Abrahamic principles of caring and giving found in the Bible, he said.
“In Islam, God has two names. Of them, the two most common are translated to mean compassion and mercy,” Ahmed said. “A Muslim understands God through compassion and mercy.”
Kindness and forgiveness
Ahmed blames violence on corrupt Muslim leaders. Any leader who follows the tenets of Islam must espouse kindness and forgiveness, he said.
“The leaders of the Muslim world are going though a dark age,” Ahmed said. “We really need leadership.”
Ahmed stressed the importance of viewing simultaneous U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from a dual perspective. While 2,997 lives were lost on 9/11, and nearly that many U.S. troops have been killed in the subsequent wars, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have also died, he said, “and they also have families.”
“There are many young men who want revenge,” Ahmed said. “Rightly or wrongly, they accuse Americans.”
During the lecture, Ahmed frequently addressed students specifically, charging their generation with cleaning up the mess left by his own. “Wake up and go change the world,” he said. "Because unless you move very fast, you may not have much of a world to change."
Posted Sept. 12, 2006
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