Which Muslim is not concerned with his image in the post 9/11 America? Which Muslim leader has not spoken to convince his coworkers, co-travelers, co-team members of his peaceful values? And despite all concerns and speeches to change their image, why do most Americans remain uninspired by Muslims?
Ask Mark Stroman. An enraged 31-year-old white American, who fatally shot two Southeast Asian men in Dallas, TX, within a month of 9/11, 2001. His third victim, Rais Bhuiyan, a 37-year-old Muslim from Bangladesh, survived a facial bullet injury. Stroman was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death in 2002. But when Bhuiyan, a practicing Muslim, started a movement to save Stroman's life, an altogether different narrative emerged. When asked why, Bhuiyan responded: "In Islam it says that saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind." Bhuiyan went as far to create a website called World Without Hate and worked with Stroman's lawyers for a new lease on his life.
Lesson 1 for individual Muslims: You can't be a "Muslim for Life" unless you actually stand up to save a life.
Not for the life of me, you might argue. One story of compassion is not enough to undo New York, London, Bali, Bombay, Madrid, Tel Aviv ... No, this is not a list of the world's fashion capitals (God save Paris!); instead they are reminders of deadly terror attacks during the past decade -- all by Muslims. But that's like mentioning Ku Klux Klan, The Army of God, Lambs of Christ and Hutaree groups in a single breath to take a shot at all Christians -- which is absolutely not my intent.
My intent is to project Islam as a religion of life, not death.
And the Holy Quran is replete with such messages. Islam upholds life in matters of abortion (17:32) by protecting the rights of the unborn. Islam upholds life for the female infants (81:9) who were being buried alive. Islam upholds life by allowing a hungry individual in distress (2:174) to even eat pork in order to save life. Islam upholds life, yet in cases of murder (2:179), by allowing the option of blood money. Islam upholds life by not prescribing the death penalty as the only punishment for any crime.
More globally, Quran declares, "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 (5:33)." Precisely the verse Bhuiyan quoted.
Not again, you might push back. A few sweet verses from a Holy text are hardly any proof of Islam's commitment to life. Why has this sweetness not penetrated the Muslim communities?
It has. Come visit one, among many, American Muslim community which is breathing life into these Quranic verses.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11, America's oldest Muslim organization, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, has launched nationwide campaign called "Muslims for Life." Thousands of their volunteers are distributing flyers, working with American Red Cross, reaching out to hospitals, colleges, churches and synagogues in order to raise 10,000 units of blood as their way to pledge solidarity with the victims of 9/11. Since each unit of blood can potentially save three lives, the Ahmadiyya Muslims are striving to save 30,000 lives during the month of September, 2011. The community has organized or partnered nearly 300 blood drives nationwide this month.
So it's time for lesson 2, for Muslim leaders: Action, not speeches, is needed to link the image of a Muslim with love, life, and liberty. After a decade of death and destruction, both at home and abroad, all Americans are well served if we pledge solidarity with the victims of 9/11 by donating blood; not to score political points but to uphold the sanctity of life.
The message, we peaceful Muslims are giving to the killers behind 9/11 is simple: You take blood. We give blood.
"I tried to kill this man, and this man is now trying to save my life. This man is inspiring to me," Stroman said before he was executed on July 20th 2011.