Understanding, learning and patience are just some of the things that are necessary at this critical time for all of us trying to heal from the wounds of the September 11 tragedy and deal with the war.
1. Understand American anger
The attack on the Twin Towers was like none other in US history. It was an attack on the American Qibla.
The World Trade Center was once the center of this country's trade and finance and the tallest building of the largest city in the United States. It was not just another skyscraper. As for the attack on the Pentagon, it was like an onslaught on the country's fortress. These attacks have highly symbolic and cultural significance. People not only felt for the innocent brutally killed in the buildings, but everyone felt as though they were violated and humiliated.
Although more Americans died in car accidents every year (about 30,000) than on September 11, there is no national sense of shock and humiliation associated with car accidents.
In human history, an airplane packed with civilians has never been used as a bomb. This terrifying and unique occurrence didn't only happen, but it took place live, right in front of the everyone. Many of us still have difficulty sleeping a month after the attack. It still looks unbelievable.
2. See America beyond its foreign policy
Much of the world sees America in terms of its foreign policy of double standards and talks about its colonialism, neocolonialism and injustice.
But unlike other nations, most Americans rarely discuss how the country should and does deal with other nations. Even during last year's presidential elections, foreign policy was rarely brought up.
That's why it's important to see Americans as individuals who, like millions of others on the planet, have families, friends, jobs and daily struggles like everyone else around the world and not a direct instrument of foreign policy.
It's also important to remember that not all Americans support the country's foreign policy. There are many who oppose the sanctions on Iraq like Kathy Kelly of the movement Voices in The Wilderness. She and VITW have done more to oppose sanctions than any Muslim country. Also there are those who condemn Israeli atrocities against Palestinians including some Jews. Consider the founders and patrons of the magazine The Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, one of the few balanced voices in the American media on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
3. Get to know the "other America"
This America is different from the one defined by its foreign policy or Hollywood movies. This is the real America, of people and faces. In this America half of all Americans regularly attend church and donate a huge amount in charity for causes worldwide and not all of them are looking for converting others to Christianity. The largest number of Somali refugees in the world are found in America, who are building beautiful Masjids.
This is the America who regretted slavery and fought for African-Americans' freedom from it and later, for their civil rights. This is the America which protested against the war in Vietnam, and 50 percent of which opposed America starting a war in the Gulf over a decade ago. This is the America which fully supports the current war against terrorism, but 75% of which still respect the rights of anti-war demonstrators.
This is also the America where, unlike Hollywood's descriptions, about 50 percent of high school students don't indulge in sex and 50 percent of women don't drink.
Finally, this is also the America that, despite the horror of September 11, is willing to learn about Islam by buying the Quran in record numbers and standing up for the civil rights and safety of its six million Muslims. Some women have even donned Hijab for a day in solidarity with Muslim women.
4. Read about America
One way to gain a better understanding of the American socio-cultural landscape is to read about it.
Just select a couple of books that can give you an overview of American culture and how it developed. For instance, Americans always emphasize the need for "democracy". What do they mean? What is their understanding of democracy. For an answer, you can read the classic book Democracy in America by Alexhis de Tocqueville.
By broadening your horizons in this manner, you'll not only learn the "what" of American culture, but also the "how" and "why" of it.
5. Pray for America
America and Muslims are both troubled. Both fear the unknown. Both want peace and security for themselves, their nations and their peoples. But what we are seeing today is a divided world and this is dangerous.
One way to bridge this gap is to pray or make Dua for each other. We should ask God to help heal Americans from this tragedy and ask for Muslims to build bridges to bring the world closer. We should also ask Allah to help Americans like for others what they like for themselves.
America is great but God is the Greatest and He can help all human beings, regardless of religious, national or cultural background. Through prayer, we develop a connection to God, but also to those who we are praying for. We are asking for good for them and in turn developing positive, productive feelings instead of the ones that have already led to the loss of innocent lives.
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Tribute_in_Light#mediaviewer/File:9-11-11_WTC_Tribute_In_Light_from_Jersey_City,_NJ.jpg