For months the jury had been reviewing the thousands of anonymous submissions for the September 11th memorial contest. Finally they were down to two designs. The Garden, Claire’s favorite was beautiful and a place she could imagine her family and other victim’s families visiting. The second design, The Void was just too dark for her. Although there were artists, politicians, a retired university president and a historian on the panel, Claire was the only jury member who had lost a family member. Claire’s husband had been killed in the attack and she represented the families. It was time to vote and Claire was ecstatic when The Garden design was chosen for the memorial.
The piece of paper containing the winner’s name was passed from palm to palm like a fragile folio. There were a few gasps and “hmmms,” an “interesting,” an “oh my.” Then: “Jesus fucking Christ. It’s a goddam Muslim!
What an amazing premise! What now? Should they eliminate the winner just because his name was Mohammed? Could this be a “healing gesture” as one juror suggested or was it a disaster just waiting to happen. Was the beautiful Garden memorial actually a Islamic garden; a martyrs paradise? What should they do…what could they do? A winner had been selected fair and square.
Mohammed Khan or “Mo” as his friends called him was born in Virginia, the son of Muslim Immigrants from India. He was a talented, ambitious architect. We get to know Mo and feel for him when he gets pulled out of the security line at the airport just because of his name. We are also introduced to Sean, an angry young man whose brother was killed in the twin tower attack and could not accept a memorial designed by a Muslim. And then there is Asma Anmar, a pregnant, illegal Bangladeshi immigrant whose husband was also killed in the attack.
The Submission touches on so many relevant topics. How do we feel about American Muslims? There is still so much fear and confusion when it comes to Islam. Last year as I was driving home I noticed a group of people gathered on the front lawn of the Slade mansion in Pikesville. They were clearly Muslim and engaged in some type of ceremony. At the time I was unaware that the Baltimore Congregation of The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam had bought the property and I have to admit that I was startled and somewhat uncomfortable. We all have a lot to learn. The Submission is a quick read and is definitely food for thought.