In nearly all things bad there is a silver lining. On the fourteenth anniversary of one of the worst events to occur during my lifetime, I could not help but think that 9/11 has brought us closer to reconciling the constructed division between “Islam” (which mistakenly doubles as “Arab Culture” for most Americans) and “The West.”
My best evidence of this phenomenon is also my most personal: despite being raised without engaging Arab culture much (my parents are wonderful and extremely open-minded, for the record), I find myself drawn closer to it in direct proportion to how much vitriolic hatred is produced by the extremes in the US.
As I reflect on my life up to now, I realize that without 9/11, my Islamophobic relatives might not have exposed me to such disagreeable and upsetting views that obligated me to seek better information. Without the demonization of Arabs and Muslims following 9/11, I probably would have never been intrigued enough to step into the Classical Islam course with Vernon Schubel my first semester at Kenyon College.
Without 9/11, there likely would not have been multiple Arabic courses at my college and many fellowships to study Arabic abroad. Without 9/11, Al-Bustan may not have come into existence because there would not have been as much need to counter ignorance of Arab culture in the US. Without 9/11, I would not have the opportunity to help educate about Arab culture and language as a part of Al-Bustan.
In the continued struggle against post-9/11-ignorance and the consequent education of people, I see a silver lining. This is not to say that the suffering of hundreds of millions of people in the Arab and Muslim World is worth it—the US will never fully ameliorate the damage we have done to those communities in the name of “freedom”—but it may help us envision how a garden can grow from ash.