(This is the first of a five part series by the artist introducing the project – an artistic endeavor focused on bringing to light the essence of the Islamic 99 “names” [attributes] of God)
When 9/11 happened, I was in something of a mental fog attending an art history class at BYU. My mother had passed away a few months earlier and I was her executor–with all the good vibes that position brings with it in a family of four strong-willed brothers and their equally strong-willed wives–and I was realizing I had to actually graduate. The realities of what happened in New York and elsewhere had a difficult time breaking into the net of the mundane filling my mind.
I had been taking a couple classes each term as I was slowly approaching my thesis project; because stained glass is not an official emphasis in the art program, I had worked out with the Powers That Be to take the one repeatable stained glass class over and over, and support my academic efforts with special projects in my job working full time at a stained glass studio. With my mother’s passing, I had to finish up and graduate as per her last request and I was busily mentally adjusting to the full time student mindset.
It was startling how quickly that receded into the background as the magnitude of what had happened unfolded onto the American conscious. It was also startling how quickly someone–a surviving someone–had to be blamed. I fully supported military efforts to punish the guilty, and joined my fellow Americans on the lookout for any and all who acted suspiciously.
Then something started nagging at my conscience. It wasn’t a group of evil people being blamed, it was an entire religion. A quarter of the world’s population, I was regularly told, wanted me hurting and dead. This was becoming socially sanctioned, media-driven religious persecution–something against which this country was originally formed. And it bothered me greatly.
People who are different can be frightening, and many times we react to fear through aggression. If we can warn off, threaten, or terrify the object of our fear, the situation (we think) is resolved. But the fear itself remains.
When fear is attached to a group of people, this aggressive reaction can quickly become the ugly realization of prejudice. When people in a neighborhood are afraid of losing jobs folks can become antagonistic towards immigrants, for example, and this behavior may become extended towards any group perceived as being unusual, different, or in any other way threatening.