Nearly 10 years have passed since the blood of 3,000 innocent Americans was shed by terrorists who exploited the religion of Islam. This September, Muslim Americans will join our countrymen to honor those we lost by engaging in prayers, delivering speeches, and observing moments of silence. And, in the spirit of saving lives, we are asking our fellow Americans to join us and donate what is surely a most precious gift - blood.
As vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, the oldest Muslim organization in the United States, last month I attended the White House Iftar Dinner. This annual event celebrates the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan by hosting iftar, the meal that breaks the day of fasting.
When I met President Obama that night, we spoke of the need for effective and long-term civic engagement by Muslim Americans. I mentioned our community’s two successful nationwide campaigns—“Muslims for Peace” and “Muslims for Loyalty”—that promoted the message that Muslims are loyal Americans who stand for peace.
I then told him of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s latest effort, a nationwide “Muslims for Life” campaign to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
This September, our community will hold blood drives at mosques and prayer centers and in conjunction with other community organizations with the goal of collecting 10,000 units of blood that can help save 30,000 lives. The President seemed pleased at this effort to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
As we coordinate with hospitals and blood centers around the country, we ask Americans of every faith and of no faith, to join us in this cause. We hope to send a message to terrorists everywhere that as Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Native Americans, Atheists, and Agnostics—as Americans—we stand for peace, united against terrorism.
Some scoff at the idea of Muslim Americans honoring those we lost on 9/11. But the terrorists who committed these vile acts also hijacked Islam that day. Our religion considers life sacrosanct. The Holy Koran declares that the taking of even one innocent life is akin to having killed all mankind and the saving of even one life is akin to having saved all mankind (5:33). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “God has made the blood, honor, and property of every human being sacred.”
Muslims for Life aims to save lives and unite Americans regardless of faith, just as President Obama has led efforts toward fostering a safer and ever more pluralistic America. Despite spurious allegations regarding his faith and attempts to identify him as a terrorist-sympathizer, the president has not cowed to extremists. He has repeatedly underscored how the lives of Muslim Americans and Americans of all backgrounds coalesce every day. He has rejected efforts to blindly condemn an entire people. And he has helped bring to justice the man who was responsible for coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ten years ago, terrorists unjustly exploited Islam to take away 3,000 lives. Today, we Muslim Americans are invoking the true spirit of our faith by helping to save as many as 30,000 lives. We will send a resounding message to extremists of every stripe: You shed blood to take lives, but we will shed ours to save them.
Naseem Mahdi is national vice president and missionary-in-charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. He is directing the nationwide “Muslims for Peace” campaign that will host blood drives in September at all mosques and prayers centers of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and at other locations in collaboration with many community organizations. The community's goal is to collect at least 10,000 units of blood and convey the message that Islam values the sanctity of life. Visit MuslimsforLife.org to find a blood drive near you or to start your own.