By Saadia Faruqi
Where were you on 9/11? It's a question most American adults can answer in a heartbeat, even though it happened eleven years ago. As a thirty-something now, I remember the fateful day of 9/11 vividly. At the time I was in college, but more importantly I was Muslim at a time when the world suddenly hated Muslims. But ask this question to a fifteen year old, even a twenty year old, and they look back at you blankly.
Just like I can't "feel" for the horrific events of the second world war, even though I heard plenty of stories about it from my grandparents, the youth of today find it difficult to get emotionally involved with 9/11. Which is sad, because their parents, those of my generation, feel really really strongly about it. This disconnect is unfortunate but only natural. So instead of lamenting human nature, why not take advantage of it?
Yes, that's right. Take advantage of the neutrality and cool-headedness of younger people to come to terms with a topic that almost eleven years later still brings tears to people's eyes and angry words between friends. Instead of dismissing our kids as being too young to remember this event, ask them what they know or heard about it, and you'll be surprised by the responses. Young people have a lot to say about things that occured before they were born. They can talk about their experiences without the negative undertones of "what Muslims did to us" because most of them have Muslims friends. They can talk about current events without caring about politics or political correctness. They can ask tough questions like "what really brought on the 9/11 attack?" and "how is the United States viewed by the rest of the world?" While adults, especially baby boomers, often find it difficult to discuss these topics, kids have absolutely no problem!
The educational system in the last ten years has also progressed on the teaching practics of religious and cultural tolerance. Many schools now bring in speakers from different faiths, teachers discuss comparative religion in the classroom, and students have more avenues to ask questions and get honest answers. In a multicultural city like Houston, there is no us versus them. There is just "all of us". The youth of today learned the lessons of tolerance, inclusiveness and understanding long ago, and we could all benefit from their ideas for a better tomorrow.
Saadia Faruqi is the interfaith liaison for the women's group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and editor of Interfaith Houston. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ahmadiyya Community or Interfaith Houston.