Defining moments. They have shaped our history--from the Declaration of Independence, to the Emancipation Proclamation, to D Day--the justice served on these days permanently reshaped our world. And then there was that ignominious day, 9/11, that challenged our nation with an unprecedented test. As we valiantly rose from the rubble created by cowards, we experienced another defining moment--we united as a nation.
Fast forward nearly a decade later and roughly a year after Faisal Shahzad failed to shed the blood of innocent Americans (inspired by his idol, Bin Laden): On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden, breathed his last. Today, Americans and the world at large, unite in adding May 1st to that historical list of defining moments.
But to stop here would be a waste.
The Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 did not mean America would immediately enjoy peace. The Emancipation Proclamation on April 16th, 1861 did not mean African Americans would immediately enjoy equality. D Day on June 6, 1944 did not mean an immediate end to racism and Nazism. And our unification on September 11th, 2001 did not mean a quick end to the war on terror.
In fact, quite the contrary transpired--May 1st, 2011 is no exception
Yes, as believers in God and as non-believers--as Americans, we stand with America and commend our military for their courage and vigilance in bringing a mass murderer to justice. But while we take closure in the death of that mass murderer, we absolutely must remember two important realities.
First, we mourn the thousands who died in bringing this mass murderer to justice. But not just those innocents who died on 9/11. We mourn the thousands of soldiers who willingly made the ultimate sacrifice, and the tens of thousands of unwilling innocent Afghan civilians. The price the world has paid in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice must be remembered in its full horrific magnitude, and not by a lost soul less.
Second, we recognize that May 1st, 2011 marks not the end of the war on terror, but simply, and proudly, a decisive battle victory. But with the clear recognition that the war is not over, we can work together and more effectively to bring it to an end sooner than later.
To do this as Americans, we must remain united in our cause for peace. We accomplish this by reaching out to one another, engaging in interfaith dialogues, and looking past differences in the common cause to serve humanity--together.
Meanwhile, as Muslim-Americans, we must take the lead in championing peace, love of mankind, and loyalty to our nation. Muslim-Americans can accomplish this by letting their actions do the talking, and taking immediate action. For example, as a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Youth Association, our goal is to donate 3000 bags of blood in 2011--potentially saving 9000 lives--in honor of the nearly 3000 innocents who lost their lives on 9/11. We are literally shedding our blood for our nation. Numerous other Muslim-American organizations are also engaging in humanitarian and social service efforts.
In essence, May 1st, 2011 cannot be a defining moment exclusively because of the death of a terrorist. Rather, it must be a defining moment also because of the birth of a new era of unity against extremism, against hatred, and against violence. President Obama rightly stated while announcing bin Laden’s death that after 9/11, our nation unified in a single voice. He also pointed out that our unity has faltered since. Here is our opportunity to right that wrong.
We can remain Democrats, or Republicans, or of the Green Party, or of the tea party. We may remain of any faith we choose, or choose no faith at all. But we may not, under any circumstance, accept that these differences supersede our humanity and desire for peace.
Instead, let us remember exactly what we were doing when we decided to reach out to our fellow brother, and unite as a human race.
Now that would be a defining moment to remember.
Qasim Rashid is national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.