Whipping Up Hatred between Peoples and Cultures


A shop-window sign from the Houston area


I received an email today that began as follows:


In Houston, Texas   … Harwin Central Mall …
The very first store that you come to when you walk from the lobby of the building into the shopping area had this sign posted on their door. The shop is run by Muslims.


Feel free to share this with others.


In case you are not able to read the sign below, it says,

“We will be closed on Friday, September 11, to commemorate
the martyrdom of Imam Ali.”


Imam Ali flew one of the planes into the twin towers. Nice, huh? Try telling me we’re not in a Religious war!  THIS HAS NOT BEEN AROUND….SO MAKE SURE IT DOES!   PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW AND HAVE THEM DO THE SAME! . . .


This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people! Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.


It’s an open question, I suppose, whether the person who set this little item in motion is a flat-out liar or merely irresponsibly careless and ignorant.


Here are the names of the 9-11 hijackers who hit the Twin Towers in New York:


Mohamed Atta

Waleed  al-Shehri

Wail al-Shehri

Abdulaziz al-Omari

Satam al-Suqami

Marwan al-Shehhi

Fayez Banihammad

Mohand al-Shehri

Hamza al-Ghamdi

Ahmed al-Ghamdi


There isn’t a single “Ali” among them.


But perhaps the author of this little post simply confused one hijacked plane with another?  Here are the names of those who hijacked the plane that crashed into the Pentagon:


Hani Hanjour

Khalid al-Mihdhar

Majed Moqed

Nawaf al-Hazmi

Salem al-Hazmi


There’s still, plainly, nobody named “Ali.”  So here are the names of the hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania:


Ziad Jarrah

Ahmed al-Haznawi

Ahmed al-Nami

Saeed al-Ghamdi


There wasn’t an “Ali” on any of the hijacked planes.


“Imam Ali” wasn’t one of the 9-11 hijackers, and the owners of that Houston area shop weren’t celebrating an attack on America.  “Imam Ali” was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and the last of the four “Rightly-Guided Caliphs” of the formative period of Islam.  He was assassinated in 661 AD.  That’s roughly thirteen and a half centuries before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.  (The “A.S.” after his name in the sign on the window stands for the conventional Arabic formula alayhi as-Salaam ["upon him (be) peace"], which is often appended to the names of martyrs and virtually always follows the name of ‘Ali.)


But why did the shopkeeper choose specifically September 11th to celebrate?  ‘Ali was killed on the twenty-first day of the Muslim month of Ramadan.  The Muslim hijri religious calendar is a lunar one, not a solar one like the Gregorian calendar used in the West and, now, pretty much everywhere else (including the Islamic world).  It has twelve months, but is only 354 (or, sometimes 355) days long.  This means that it’s out of sync with the Western calendar, and that dates that are fixed in hijri terms move through the Gregorian year.  In 2009, when the photo above was actually taken, 21 Ramadan — a somber and solemn anniversary for many Muslims — fell on 11 September.  It’s unfortunate that the sign in the shop window didn’t explain any of this, but the originator of the sensationalizing email cited above shouldn’t have leapt to so inflammatory and potentially harmful a conclusion and then sought to reach 400 million people with it.


If you don’t believe me on this, please see the discussion at Snopes, which I read after I had pretty much finished this blog entry.


Should you yourself receive one of these things, please — at a minimum — don’t pass it on.  And please consider correcting the person who sent it to you.  You could even direct him or her to Snopes, or to my comments here.  He or she is also a victim of this false accusation.


It’s indisputable that widespread sectors of the Islamic world today are dangerously dysfunctional.  But there is no justification for inflaming fear and hatred of Muslims in general — let alone of some harmless Muslim shopkeepers in Houston — on the basis of a ridiculous, blatant, and easily refuted falsehood.  If I lived in the Houston area and if the shop is still there, I would probably go and spend a little money at the Perfume Planet shop in the Harwin Central Mart (as I believe it’s accurately known).  This would be at least some small reparation for the damage and stress that, I’m guessing, has been imposed by this wretched internet lie on the people who own and operate the place.



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  • Eric Larson

    Thanks for putting together this debunking. This reminds me of that silly “surrah 9.11″ hoax from 2001 about the eagle cleansing the land of Allah. Didn’t take long to find the actual verse 11 of Surrah 9, and that the word eagle isn’t anywhere in the Koran. And I didn’t even know Snopes existed back then.

    • DanielPeterson

      Yes. That one was another irritating and blatantly false attempt to stir the pot.

  • brotheroflogan

    Why September 11th though?

    • DanielPeterson

      The Snopes article, which I actually read after I had written most of the entry above, explains that, in particular year when the photo was taken, the anniversary of the martyrdom of ‘Ali happened to occur on that date. (The Islamic religious calendar is a lunar one, as distinct from the Western calendar, which is solar. Accordingly, Islamic holidays that are fixed in the “hijri” calendar move through our year.)

  • Eric Ringger

    I’m sending this to 4 million of my friends.

    • DanielPeterson

      Please do! (But only your four million CLOSEST friends, I hope.)

  • Lucy Mcgee

    Reading Sic et Non for over a year has encouraged introspection and broad reading which includes topics about Islam and the Muslim world. Recently, I read “The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam” by Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University. He is considered a leading authority on Islam today.

    His book was very sad and poignant as he described the travails of mountainous tribal cultures caught in a war of imperialism. He discusses the tribal lineage system of beliefs which have operated in this world for hundreds of years. I was taken aback not only by the isolation of these tribes, but of how they have tried to cope with the modern world and massive weapons, including drones; a constant terror on villages.

    I’d be curious if you’ve read this book, and if you haven’t and eventually would read it, your opinion of what the author describes. I’d value your opinion.

    • DanielPeterson

      I haven’t read the book, but will put it on my list.

      I’ve met Akbar Ahmed, though. He actually came to BYU two or three years ago and, among other things, interviewed me. Some of that material ended up in a book that he published. (I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten the title, off hand.)

      • Lucy Mcgee

        And that is why I really enjoy Sic et Non.

  • Mike Parker

    Holidays that follow a lunar calendar SHOULDN’T be a strange concept to American Christians: After all, Easter falls every year on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (between late March and late April).