COMMENTARY | I have always been a firm believer in The Golden Rule. I was before the September 11 attacks, and I am today. The big difference between those eras is that, since 9/11, it has become a lot harder for me to do so. By the way, Islam, along with many other of the world’s major religions preaches the very same doctrine. But then, there seems to be a lot about Islam that its most fanatical proponents find inconvenient to observe.
Here is one fundamental way in which the events of September 11, 2001 changed me. Before I elaborate, let me explain the difference between two related, but far from identical words: prejudice and discrimination. The latter is something none of us should practice, and, in an ideal world, would rise above. Discrimination is an act that punishes an entire group of people for the wrong perpetrated by an undesirable minority within their population.
Prejudice, on the other hand, is a thought process, and, if we are to be completely honest with one another, none of us are without it. It is frequently a harmful process, but not always.
Prior to the attack, I was aware of Islamic terrorism, of course. You would have to be blind not to be. Still, I managed to keep it in perspective. It was only the militant few who were causing all this unrest, right?
The 9/11 attack galvanized my feelings of hostility, not only toward the people who are trying to destroy us, but toward the spiritual leaders of the religion that supposedly goads them on. I came to realize, in this modern age, any spokesman for any religion, who still condones violence (let alone advocates it) as a means of spreading the faith, is a charlatan at best and a moral reprobate at worst.
In all the saturated TV coverage of that horrible event, the one picture that made the strongest impression on me was that of people throughout the Middle East, dancing in the streets and firing their rifles in the air to celebrate the massacre. Sure, the governments of those nations all expressed their official condolences, but, in the streets, there was merriment.
I have since tamped down my anger, but, in the process, I have come to realize something: the bad guys do not walk around with big buttons that say “I am a terrorist.” Because of that, I have a very hard time trusting the entire class of people to which they belong. Because I cannot tell if the money I spend may be going to finance the Islamic warmongers, I will not knowingly patronize their businesses. I will be quicker to doubt the truth of their statements. Yes, it is a spiritual failing on my part, but, then, how many people has my spiritual failing killed?