American Muslim Responses to September 11, 2001

Overview: This lesson discusses the events of September 11th in terms of values discussed in the life of Muhammad.


Students will be able to:

  • summarize the comments of contemporary American Muslims on the events of September 11th and evaluate their responses in terms of the values these comments reflect.
  • explain the relationship between the responses of the American Muslims shown in the film and the Islamic values from the Qurían and Muhammadís example described in the film.


  1. Have students read Handout 4:4a on quotes of contemporary Muslims in the film on September 11th. Then, in groups, have students use Handout 4:4b to summarize the views of Daisy Khan (architect), Kevin James (FDNY Fire Marshall), and Mohamed Zakariya (calligrapher) in column 2.
  2. Discuss as a class how the reactions of the contemporary Muslims to September 11th are related to the Islamic values covered in the lesson on Personal and Civic Values.

Handout 4:4a RESPONSES TO SEPTEMBER 11TH, 2001

M. Cherif Bassiouni (Professor of Law):

Jihad is misused. There is absolutely nothing in Islam that justifies the claims of Osama bin Laden or al Qaida or other similar groups to kill innocent civilians. That is unequivocably a crime under Islamic law. Acts of terror, violence that have occurred in the name of Islam are not only wrong, they are contrary to Islam.

Kevin James (FDNY Fire Marshall):

September 11th, I hooked up with two other fire marshals. We found a place to park near the bridge, there was about two inches of soot, and if it were white and colder out, you would have sworn that it was snow. I came over the Brooklyn Bridge and it was like something out of a movie, it was very quiet, you know that muffled sound like your in a blizzard when you canít hear your feet hitting the ground, it was very quiet. So we put on our turn-out gear and we started heading over there. I think I can speak for all of us, we were in a state of shock. In the back of my head I thought, donít be Muslims doing this. I just felt sick. We could see this fragment of the World Trade Center sticking up almost like a lopsided crown. We started walking down one way and we saw some firefighters dazed. They said, "Donít go down there, there is still more collapsing." We were dying to go out there and do something, figuring that some of the brothers, that anyone, could still be trapped under the rubble. But it was frustrating. But you gotta understand, they donít want to lose more people on top of those already lost. This is just, I mean, of course, out and out madness. The Prophet himself, because of the circumstances, engaged in battle, warfare, but he had a certain code of conduct, which he followed. You have to separate fanaticism, which every religion has, from the reality and truth of that religion. These are fanatics who have lost sight of what the purpose of religion is, and they are acting, you know, on their own.

What hurt me probably most of all in the World Trade Center attack was that here is a religion that I had entered because of the universality and the tolerance that are throughout the Book and the sayings of the Prophet. Yet these people that did that and were behind it and planned it were so intolerant and so disregarding of their own tenets that they could do something so horrific and kill people in such a horrible manner. It was hard, it was hard, you know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Itís like, you know, after you do all this work and you try so hard and now this. The Prophet says, if youíre planting a tree and the end of the world comes, you finish planting the tree. It means you just keep on going and try to live your life according to what you believe in, and for me and others to keep this from ever happening again.

September 11th underscored the need to have dialog with non-Muslims and other faiths to understand each other and try to resolve these hotspots that fester and cause this type of hatred.

Daisy Khan (Architect):

The death and destruction in New York City that was caused by this terrible, terrible event in the name of Islam has propelled the Muslim community to respond in many different ways. And one of the ways I want to respond is the way the Prophet would have responded which is to just talk about the humanity we all belong to.

Mohamed Zakaria (Muslim calligrapher):

Catastrophes have brought us here but not all is lost. Through our art we pick up all these broken pieces and try to put them back together again and make something thatís going to work. Revenge, suicide bombing and things of that kind, they have no place in Islam, they must never have a place, never, never. Islam is really a soft thing, not a hard thing and so we must approach it with softness and be soft to each other. The Prophet said, make it easy and not difficult. So we should put away all those angry words, the harsh and strident rhetoric that weíve been dealing with for all these years that weíve suffered with this sweet religion through this beastly stuff, and come out into the light and be bright in America, be bright and look in the mirror, thatís what we have to do.