The Commons
Voices / Primary Sources

A small group can wage peace

A Muslim-American remarks on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

Amer Latif, a Muslim-American native of Pakistan, teaches religious studies at Marlboro College. This piece is adapted from a speech that he delivered at a gathering/vigil organized by the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association . “I am extremely grateful to be standing here with all of you on the tenth anniversary of the events of Sept. 11,” Latif said at the beginning of his remarks. “I would like to express my thanks to all the members of the interfaith community who have worked hard to create this space where we can remember a tragic and painful event in the spirit of compassion and love.”

Originally published in The Commons issue #119 (Wednesday, September 21, 2011).

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To love humankind is to love the truth of each human being.

It is to see the suffering of the victims of 9-11 as no different from the suffering of the thousands of Iraqis who died in response to that one event.

It is to see the suffering of soldiers who have felt the shock of roadside bombs and are suffering with post-traumatic stress as no different from those civilians in Afghanistan who were subjected to the treatment of “shock and awe.”

It is to see the suffering of an American mother who loses a soldier son as no different from the suffering of a Pakistani Pathan mother whose young child lies dead and disfigured as collateral damage in a drone attack.

But this is difficult work. It demands that we find the will to locate and experience love, compassion, and peace within ourselves.

We need to commit to techniques and daily practices that help us find and cultivate these beautiful qualities.

We need to hunger for these qualities as we hunger for food and water. We need to work for these as we work to put a roof over our heads and food on our tables. Then we can share these qualities with those closest to us in our families and places of work, and — slowly but surely — the effects will ripple out to the larger community.

As a Muslim-American, I find such inspiration in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, who, when asked how one could change the behavior of one’s children, replied, “Start with yourself.”

I also find guidance and hope in Prophet Muhammad’s words: “God is beautiful and loves beauty.”

Dear friends, neighbors, community members: I counsel you and I counsel myself to look into our traditions, whether religious or secular, to find the beautiful, to cultivate the beautiful, to reap the beautiful, and to share the beautiful.

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