The legacy of 9/11

Are we turning into a nation of Islam-haters?

It’s to his credit that, in the days immediately following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush prevailed upon Americans not to hold Muslims in general responsible for the terrible deeds of a few extremists acting with a perverted sense of their religion. For several years that admonition held, and Americans continued to respect the right of all to worship and practice as they chose.

American Muslims were grateful. The nation’s response confirmed their faith in this country and made them appreciate it as a haven for people of all religious beliefs. Lately, though, they’ve become frightened. A wave of anti-Islamic sentiment is sweeping the country, and more and more of their fellow Americans are questioning their loyalty.

Beginning with ginned-up opposition to the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhatten, anti-Muslim fever has spread across the country, culminating now in Gainesville, Fla., where the minister of a small fundamentalist Christian church has said Islam is evil and pledged to burn copies of the Quran.

Whence comes this Islamophobia? The main sources that we see are Fox News and assorted hysterical far-right bloggers, who seem determined to whip the public into an anti-Muslim frenzy and damn the consequences, even if those consequences include greater anti-American hostility in Iraq and Afghanistan and the potential loss of American soldiers’ lives.

Meanwhile, loyal American Muslims live in fear and increasingly believe they are not wanted in this country. Is this the legacy of 9/11 that we seek? Is this the America we have become? As we honor the dead on Saturday’s ninth anniversary of the attacks, these are the questions we should be asking ourselves.