by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA
Dr. Meymandi is in private practice as a psychiatrist and neurologist and serves as an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a noted physician, editor, and philanthropist who frequently speaks and writes on diverse topics that relate to his interests in medicine, the arts, religion, and philanthropy. He lives in Raleigh with his wife Emily.

Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011;8(9):31–32

This column is devoted to bridging the gap between basic sciences, medicine, the arts, and humanities.

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, there was an attack on America. So far, as history attests, after the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, this has been the only time that American land has been attacked directly by any force. We all have seen on television the incredible event. Four planes attacked America in a terrible way killing thousands. Two of the airplanes were crashed into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City. The third plane was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The last plane was going to crash into another building in Washington, DC, but the passengers stopped the hijackers, and the plane crashed into a field instead. Hundreds of people died in those planes; thousands died in the buildings that were the targets of those planes.

September 11, 2001, now known simply as 9/11, was a tragedy. America was violated—nearly 3,000 lives were lost. It was an inhuman act of aggression and brutality. We Americans have been grieved, astounded, misplaced, endangered, compelled, puzzled, and stunned by the proportion of the brutality of the 9/11 act.

Historically, the roots of the conflict go back to the days of Abram of Ur (before he became Abraham–Genesis 17). The conflict of his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, planted the seed of Arab and Israeli conflict. Briefly, years before Abraham’s second son, Isaac, was born, Hagar, a servant of Abraham, gave birth to Ishmael, anointed to become the ruler of the nations later forming the Middle East. Ishmael went to live in the wilderness region of Hejaz in what became known as the Arabian Peninsula. He had 12 patriarchal sons who became associated with the peoples known as Midianites, Edomites, Egyptians, and Assyrians. The Bible and Islamic tradition both agree that Ishmael became the leader of all the great desert peoples of the Middle East, while Isaac became the leader of the Jews.

Over the years, centuries, and millennia, the jealousy between the two brothers created an unparalleled hate that has set off wars and atrocities for 4,000 years. It is the title deed to the land of Israel, which God promised to Abraham’s lineage, that has been the source of the friction between the Jews and the Arabs right up to the present day. The crusades were fought mostly over this piece of land called Jerusalem. And now, 4,000 years later, through the auspices of the United Nations, we have tried to swap pieces of peace for pieces of land. Alas…we have failed.

Ten years have now passed since the atrocities of 9/11. What do we do now? All major religions and their holy books, including Bhagavad Gita of Hindus, Avesta of Zoroastrians, Torah of Moses, Quoran of Islam, and the Bible of Christ recommend forgiveness and conciliation. As one exposed to all these holy writings, I am most impressed by Christian love and the Pauline theology of faith, love, hope, possibilities, forgiveness, and redemption. It is the unique attribute of Christian teaching to transform one’s enemy through the act of love and turning the other cheek—What a magnanimous feat of humanity and Godliness. I am for establishing dialogue, learning the enemy’s language, pressing flesh, and showing acts of love and mercy.