For me, this moment isn’t just a celebration, but an opportunity to continue to heal the false conflict between America and Islam that Osama bin Laden has tried to create. Born to an American Catholic mother and a Lebanese Muslim father, I have struggled to understand what it means to be an American Muslim. That day in 2001 changed not only the world and the U.S., but also challenged an entire population to define itself. Bin Laden not only created the plot that hijacked those four planes, but he also hijacked the message of an entire religion. No one has been as troubled these past 10 years as those moderate Muslims who have had to repeatedly hear this man try to speak for us. An Egyptian man once said it perfectly in a State Department focus group: “In the Middle East, if you don’t define yourselves, they [extremists] will.”
Each year on my birthday, now officially Patriot day, I have taken his words to heart, knowing that as an American, and as a Muslim, I must work constantly to define myself and my values. I’ve talked American politics and the Iraq war with a Tunisian cabdriver, and lead Bible-Quran comparative studies in Georgia. I am certainly not alone, and Tuesday, 40 women, all under the age of 40, all born in the United States, all Muslim, stood up to define themselves in a new book, “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim.” Our book showcases the diversity within Islam, a generation of women working to connect worlds and spread compassion.