A Growing Problem Right in America’s Backyard: Extremism

September 11th is a day that is synonymous with destruction, chaos and overall panic. America was under attack. 

I don’t need to tell you how much has changed since 9/11. We are all aware of the impact that the attacks had on our national security, our global interests and our armed forces. But we may not be aware that something else a bit more complex has developed following September 11th and now resides in the American subconscious: Islamophobia.

After 19 Muslim fundamentalists hijacked three planes and used them to kill thousands of civilians, America went to war. We didn’t just go to war with Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. We didn’t just go to war with the Taliban. We went to war with an entire culture, faith, and ideology. Islam became our enemy.

But Islam was not and is not the enemy. Extremism is.

Extremism exists in all shapes and sizes. However, it seems as if in America the only extremism we acknowledge is the Islamic brand. We have our own special blend here in the United States, and for the past 11 years that has been our greatest enemy.

This summer it became almost matter-of-fact when you saw the news about a shooting and innocent people dying. Aurora, Colorado: 12 dead while watching the premier of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.” Oak Creek, Wisconsin: six dead while resting in their place of worship. New York City, New York: A man executed in broad daylight outside of the Empire State Building. The perpetrators? No, it wasn’t a stereotypical name like Muhammad Abdul that the American public associates with Muslims. It was James Holmes. It was Wade Michael Page. It was Jeffrey Johnson.

I recall a time shortly after 9/11 when I was attending a New Jersey Devils game at the then named Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford. Sitting alone a few sections above us was a man who appeared to be of Arabic descent. Everyone, including the 10-year- old me, turned around every few minutes or so to look at this guy.  Looking back, why did I turn around to watch this guy? It is all too clear now: fear, immaturity, and irrationality.

At ten years old, most of us are afraid of everything. We cast hate upon others for no reason, and are just irrational little people. After a once-in-a-century type catastrophe such as 9/11, our emotions are heightened. I am now 21, and I hope that I don’t possess such raw emotions toward people I do not even know. I moved on. I grew up. I realized that the man sitting sections above me did not attack me. I realized Islam wasn’t the enemy.

The idea that Muslims are America’s greatest enemy still prevails in the minds of many. After the recent attack on America’s embassy in Libya that resulted in the murder of 4 of our citizens, the blame game begun again with Islam. 

What happened in Libya was in fact an act of terrorism. What happened in Colorado and Wisconsin was considered a tragedy. And that is where the problem lies: we associate the word terrorism with Al-Qaeda, not with white supremacists such as Wade Michael Page who opened up a rampage at a Sikh Temple. His killing spree was not labeled terrorism. James Holmes’ massacre was not considered a national security threat. They were considered ‘loners,’ or ‘mentally unstable.’ Not terrorists.

But the goal is the same: advance their agenda, paying little mind to those who stand in the way.

We just don’t perceive it as terrorism because it occurs within our borders, thanks to people like Pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn 200 copies of the Qu’ran on the 9th anniversary of September 11th. Or Tea Party Congresswoman Michelle Bachman who went on a wild witch hunt this summer accusing Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. 

As a country, we can continue to pursue a war with the Muslim world as payback for what 19 of their radical, socially unacceptable outcasts did to us, and continue to lose American lives. Or we can wake up and realize we have extremists living in our own country who do not worship Allah. We may not consider them terrorists, but they are harming America in their own way.

I am talking not only just about James Holmes and Wade Michael Page. I am talking about the Republicans in Pennsylvania who want to make it impossible for black people to vote. I am talking about Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, who said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” I am talking about Grover Norquist, a prominent conservative and founder of Americans for Tax Reform, who wants to shrink government so small that it could be drowned in a bathtub.

Minorities not being able to vote, Republican senators refusing to govern, and the thought of Grover Norquist in a bathtub:

Yes America, we are still under attack.