Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.[b] Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.
~ Isaiah 7:14 ‒ 16 (NKJV)
Aside from Easter, Lent, Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Holidays have always been my favourite time of year. As a child, I remember cherishing every Christmas Day morning, waking up to see presents sitting under the tree, and Christmas evening, reflecting on the birth of the Christ child and His nativity.
Every year, I also commemorate and celebrate my own birthday, with family beside me. But as the years go by, my birthday wishes have graciously evolved with me. Instead of asking Santa Claus for the latest toy, computer game, or DVD, I have increasingly taken the time to think about college (and my life after it), my finances and the future.
And… to be honest with you, the future is a very scary afterthought.
With my family putting the same expectations on me since I was that little boy sitting around our gargantuan TV in the family room, watching Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,Frosty the Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and of course, Phineas and Ferb’s Christmas Vacation (a nod to Peanuts as well)—every Christmas seems to feel more burdensome.
On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars — but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war — but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks — but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day — and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.
~ Former President George W. Bush in his Address to the Joint Session of the 107th Congress (September 20, 2001)
CONTRARY TO THE VIEWS expressed by the mainstream media, the notion of Islamophobia—the irrational fear of the beliefs and institutions of the Muslim faith—did not first enter the modern American psyche on September 11, 2001. Rather, it occurred decades before my time, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s when Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office.
Former President George W. Bush’s now famous declaration of ‘a war on terror’ is in fact a continuation of his father’s legacy, Mr. [George] Herbert Walker Bush and Mr. Reagan respectively before him, not an initiation, despite what my current generation of Millennials may presume to think.
Three years ago, within weeks of saying goodbye to my fellow graduating upper classmen of the Class of 2010, I struck up a conversation with one of my few close Muslim friends Adam S. one afternoon. Initially sharing my profoundly educated knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of his own faith with him, I somehow eventually felt emotionally provoked to painfully, but honestly scream the statement, “Nevertheless, I still believe that Muslims are terrorists.”
I could observe the deep remorse and pain in his face as I declared it. As I would later solemnly apologize, I restated that my motive was not to label every Muslim person walking around as a terrorist, as clearly that would be irrational, not to mention, unethical.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them….
Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber — a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
Former President George W. Bush couldn’t have said it more clear-cut or more precise, as his words still ring true nearly a decade after the attacks. Nevertheless, despite his best-suited intentions, we still have yet to fully recover from the damage left behind in a post-war Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are still questions that are left to be answered. Most importantly, if and when, the nations of the Middle East, and the people living there can ever accept the notion of executing democratic principles, not in the names of liberty, freedom or equality, but swiftly with mercy and grace.
In recent years, ideological Islamophobia has resurged with the controversy of constructing Park51 two blocks from Ground Zero in New York and Pastor Terry Jones purposely burning a copy of the Koran two years ago at his church in Gainesville, Florida.
As a fellow Christian, I again would like to apologize to the worldwide Muslim community if there are people among us who use hate and fear to evangelize our beliefs on the rest of the world.
The Great Commission
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Amen.
~ Matthew 28:16 – 20 (NKJV)
If we are indeed human, wouldn’t we also share the same resentment and hurt if other rogue parties were to target and ransack our churches, desecrate our icons of Christ and the Cross, and shred our Bibles? As history proves to humanity repeatedly, violence can only beget violence, no matter what one’s faith.
Which evidently, brings me to Syria…
Although President Obama has identified Tuesday night President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the involvement and usage of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, he also agrees not to send troops to intervene in Syria:
First, many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.” A veteran put it more bluntly: “This nation is sick and tired of war.”
My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities.
His overall message resonates with me, and echoes a similar overtone several of my other politically inclined friends on Facebook have recently been discussing in the last few weeks regarding Assad’s Syria:
Whatever we do over there, I believe it’s just going to fuel the fire and make matters more complicated. Whenever we drop bombs, people get killed – guilty and innocent both. This fuels the fire of the Muslim’s already present hatred of us and it will do it until the end of time. We can’t bribe real friends. And we can’t intimidate them to be our friends by bombing who we deem as “bad guys.”
We’ve spent hundreds of billions, if not more, in bombing middle-east “bad guys” the past decade, and lost some 8,500 Americans. Does the US really need to keep bankrupting itself and putting lives and weapons on the line in yet another country? When will moral policing end?
We went into Iraq, partially under the pretense of helping the people Saddam used chemical weapons against. And what a disaster going into Iraq has been. And if we go into Syria, even with just drones (as if that’s no big thing), I still think we will end up with a bigger mess of which we may have to help clean-up.
And we haven’t even talked about who we’re helping by going after Assad: Al-Nusra, the al Qaeda wing in Syria.
I think the Founders, as the saying goes, are rolling over in their graves at the sight of how many countries our government is involved in.
~ Chris Wright, expressing his opinions on the possibility of American military intervention in Syria
Going off Chris’ points directly here, first of all, I agree with everything he writes. As I voice my thoughts in a different Facebook comment thread with another fellow Mormon, Josh Roundy, I make a firm statement that coincidentally enough, reiterates the same points Chris outlines above:
I am not saying don’t help or support the children of Syria. We should in theory, help all, refugee and rebel alike. But I personally find it very emotionally and psychologically unsettling when one regime dominates the mainstream voice in the political and social discourse, as in the case of said Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
As for the actual children of Syria, here is the first of a series of clips I have painstakingly nitpicked from browsing and watching Youtube news on the conflict for months now.
This next one documents wounds two boys have sustained from a shelling in a neighborhood in Homs, dated April 2012:
*Contains some graphic/bloody imagery. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
I’ll be honest here folks. I trembled and even wanted to cry as I glanced at the doctors removing the first boy’s clothes and examining his wounds as he cries aloud in fear, and tears. My heart cannot ever properly express the sorrow I feel tremendously every time I watch videos of this content and nature, especially when there’s children involved.
To help tell the story of one family siding with the Free Syrian Army rebels in the bustling city of Aleppo, and one boy’s experience of wanting to go to school to earn his education despite living in a war zone, here is Ibrahim’s War courtesy of Journeyman Pictures.
Trust me, this film will move you in ways you couldn’t imagine of being moved:
As for the Christians of Syria, many of us are now learning that rebel forces are attempting to seize total control of the small mountainous community of Ma’loula (Maaloula).
The local residents seem to gravely fear this predicament because it could inevitably give the rebels more legroom towards not only riling the authority of Assad’s regime, but also sparking further clashing of ideologies and religions in the process. Surprisingly, both Muslims and Christians previously living in the town, who are now fleeing the area due to the nature of the attacks, collectively agree that they have lived together side by side in mutual peace for years.
Ma’loula is also home to one of the most well preserved sanctuaries of the modern-day variant of Aramaic, presumably to be the tongue of the historic Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
And as the documentary describes, director Mel Gibson—who is indeed a devout Roman Catholic and directed the now worldwide sensation The Passion of the Christ—even took some civil and historic liberties of helping to carefully reconstruct the form of ancient Aramaic that Jesus and his followers spoke in his heyday, as accurately as possible.
This ensures that there are people who are currently not only proactively determined in trying to save an essential Biblical language from the near brink of extinction. It ensures that history can be rediscovered, relived, and continue to live on in the present day for the world’s nearly 3.6 – 3.8 billion adherents of the major Abrahamic faiths, all of which, coincidentally, have their origins in the Middle East.
But regardless of our faith or our politics, 9/11 isn’t just a day when our country was attacked by Muslim extremists. It isn’t a day to start pointing the finger of hypocrisy and shame at our neighbors and condemn them as terrorists.
9/11 was, and is a day when religion and politics simultaneously intertwined and crossed paths once more, as a rallying wake-up call for all of us to reconsider how we approach sensitive topics surrounding our everyday religious confrontations, and the benefits and dangers of exploring both fundamentalism and liberal theologies and theocracies alike.
And remember: Muslims can be your friends too.
“O son of Adam, it is better for you if you spend your surplus (wealth), but if you withhold it, it is evil for you. There is (however) no reproach for you (if you withhold means necessary) for a living. And begin (charity) with your dependants; and the upper hand is better than the lower hand.” 
~ The Prophet Muhammad, Muslim hadith
*Original thanks to my good friend Marwan Mogaddedi for posting this verse on his Facebook three weeks ago.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you…”
~ Jesus of Nazareth, an excerpt from The Sermon on the Plain, Luke 6:27 – 31 (NASB)
God bless everyone and Ahlan wa Sahlan my friends. #NeverForget 😀