Twelve Years Later, Words Are Still Not Enough
by Saadia Faruqi
Actions speak louder than words. It’s a litany spoken by teachers to students, parents to children, wives to husbands (and sometimes vice versa) thousands of times around the world each day in tens of different languages. It echoes in my mind from my own childhood, and although it irritated me beyond belief as a child, I have often found myself repeating the very thing to my own little ones. “Saying sorry after hitting your sister is all very good, but actions speak louder than words” or “You may say you love your mom, but when’s the last time you helped me out around the house?” Sound familiar? Because despite the fact that this little sentence is so clichéd it ought to be outlawed, it also happens to be the essence of human nature.
In a world reverberating with a cacophony of statements, actions reflect our state of mind more than anything that comes out of our mouths. Whatever we believe, whatever we want outsiders to believe about our group, is completely dependent on how we behave. Unfortunately these five little words that are so easily understood by the youngest of minds are often the most misapplied and ignored by adults. And it is these very words that have been playing over and over in my mind today, the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, when monsters pretending to be my brothers in faith declared a holy war against my home and killed almost 3,000 innocent of my fellow countrymen and women in one terrifying swoop. Certainly their actions were taken by the entire country as a sign that Islam is a violent, bloodthirsty religion, wanting nothing more than to force the West to its knees through murder and mayhem. Ordinary Muslims such as I were aghast that such terrible actions could hold more weight than the statements of millions of Muslims in the United States and abroad who vehemently denounced them individually and collectively. But that’s human nature, isn’t it, that actions speak more clearly and resound louder than mere words do?
For twelve years American Muslims have been shouting themselves hoarse that Islam doesn’t teach violence, that Islam is inherently a peaceful religion, and that those who kill civilians are not true Muslims. Yet Islamophobes such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have the rapt attention of our collective minds. When I see Christians being kidnapped and Jews being killed by so-called Muslims on cable news, and when pundits and experts talk about Osama bin Laden in the same breath as my beloved Prophet Muhammad, it is difficult to believe the words that we all repeat like parrots… “This is not Islam” in response to those within our own tribe who distort the beautiful teachings of Islam by attaching ugly acts to them.
It took the Boston Bombing earlier this year to put things in perspective for me and many other Muslims. For the first time when I wrote about terrorism, I did not begin with the expected denunciation that must go along in order to defend my faith. And my readers gave me hell for it, demanding that I denounce the actions of those two miscreants otherwise I would somehow be seen as agreeing with them. Why? Don’t actions speak louder than words when it’s Muslims who are acting good, behaving like model pillars of society, contributing to our local communities? Do those actions not count, do they need to be followed by words to make them somehow valid and worthy of acceptance? As Qasim Rashid wote on HuffPost after the Boston Bombing:
… let me start with the standard roll call: As an American Muslim, I condemn all violence in the name of religion. Terrorism has no religion and Islam is no exception. If the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of the Boston bombings, then I hope they are brought to justice. Is that condemnation clear enough? Because I’m pretty sure a whole lot of people instead read blah blah blah blah blah.
Sadly in some situations it seems that words are never enough. Our actions and words have to be synchronized in order to get people’s attention. So for the third year in a row, many Muslims including myself will be putting their money where their mouths are. On this twelfth anniversary of 9/11 when life was taken in the name of everything we hold dear, we will come out in droves and give the gift of life. Sounds naïve? Not according to the national Muslims for Life blood drive campaign, with a goal of collecting 12,000 units of blood across the country with the help of interfaith partners. That’s enough to save 36,000 lives – 12 times those taken on 9/11. After all, we want to show our fellow countrymen that we are ready to give whatever it takes to prove that our religion teaches the sanctity of human life. It’s sad that we need to prove ourselves over and over, but if it gives us the opportunity to do some good, then so be it.
For many Americans, though, this may not be enough. After all, there are Christians like Pastor Terry Jones who feels that the best way to honor those who died on 9/11 is to burn the Qur’an. As he puts it, “It’s not about Muslims; it’s about the core message of Islam.” Pastor Jones, you have it all wrong, because your own actions, too, speak louder than your words. Christianity teaches you to love your enemy, yet you choose to commemorate a national tragedy by sowing more hatred and misunderstandings among your people. I chose to give blood on 9/11 to show that I am following the teachings of my faith – not just by professing them with my tongue but also with my acts… after all, saving a stranger’s life is a better embodiment of my faith than my blah blah blah. Join me this year by donating a pint of blood between Aug 11 and Oct 11 at one of the Muslims for Life locations across the United States, or contact your local blood center to see if they have a code set up for donating blood under this campaign. Whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Sikh or atheist, make your actions speak up, make your legs walk the walk, do what needs to be said.
Originally published on Tikkun Daily and reprinted on TAM with permission of the author. You can follow Saadia Faruqi on Twitter at @SaadiaFaruqi