Airplanes weren't the only things that were hijacked on 9/11. My religion was hijacked, too.
The unholy terrorism of 19 mass murderers has caused serious damage to the image of Islam and Muslims.
Just like that, the community of 6 million to 8 million American Muslims went from being virtually unnoticed by the larger society to being placed under a glaring light of suspicion.
All thanks to al-Qaida's warped view of religion and geopolitics.
Al-Qaida was angry at our policies in the Middle East, such as our stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia and the unconditional support given to Israel. Osama bin Laden wanted to teach us a lesson, and he refused to let Islam's moral imperatives constrain him. Instead, he distorted Islam to justify his diabolical scheme.
Al-Qaida hasn't been the only group to hijack the image of Islam. Hatemongers in this country have also hijacked Islam. These Islamophobes have spent the past decade working to distort the image of Islam to further their own political or social agendas.
And they have been quite successful.
To this day, I still have people asking me why Muslims didn't condemn 9/11. I have gotten so tired of this canard that whenever I have a speaking engagement, I carry with me a folder of public condemnations issued by American Muslims groups — and Muslims worldwide — on 9/11.
Muslim-bashers have seized on the views of a handful of extremists and ignored the centuries-old beliefs of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. They cherry-pick verses from the Quran and take them out of context, attempting to portray Islam as a religion of violence.
The instigators of Islamophobia are not obscure zealots that dwell on the margins. They are elected officials, presidential candidates, popular televangelists, radio and TV talk show hosts, and other influential people in our society.
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," said Ann Coulter in her syndicated column after 9/11.
Islam is "a religion of hatred. It's a religion of war," said the Rev. Franklin Graham in Time magazine just last summer.
"America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization," Newt Gingrich wrote on his website in July 2010.
Last year, the anti-Muslim movement made the construction of an Islamic cultural center two blocks away from ground zero a national issue and effectively derailed the project.
This year, the movement has succeeded in getting 26 states to consider bills that would ban the use of Islamic law, or Shariah, in their courts. Never mind that the Constitution already tackled the separation of church and state in 1787.
For their part, American Muslims have tried hard to reclaim a faith that has been tarnished by extremists and Islamophobes.
There is not a state in the union where Muslims haven't held open houses at their mosques and invited the community at large to visit and learn about their religion.
What's more, Muslims have interacted with other faith communities in ways that have enriched people all around. Interfaith dialogue is no longer Judeo-Christian, but it is now Abrahamic, a term that celebrates the patriarch Abraham as being the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
American Muslims want so badly to be understood because they are a part of this country — a country that is at its best when it's united, and at its worst when it discriminates.
Raeed N. Tayeh is a writer and political analyst in North Canton, Ohio. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.progressive.org.