Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attack — the overarching catastrophe that has turned upside down the shared reality of our Muslim communities in the U.S. and across the globe.
Unforeseen back in 2001, September 11 quickly became a stain projected onto our Muslim communities by our neighbors, classmates, teachers, and mass media.
Our families had to tolerate unbearable acts of aggression on a daily basis as we grew up more and more fearful of revealing our Muslim identity. Looking in the mirror triggered all the smears and disparaging comments that repeatedly echoed in our ears and haunted us in our sleep.
And while our families started to gradually drown in their oceans of despair, we took the oath upon ourselves with teary eyes and torn hearts to cross all the fires and weather all the storms.
All our efforts became dedicated to creating a peaceful reality for our families, who grew old and weary of coping with the daily implications that made up what we know as “the post-9/11 era.”
We paid the price for what we never committed or preached. And the first sacrifice was our innocent adolescence. While others were expressing their identities freely, we were crawling into the shadows and watching from the sidelines.
MuslimGirl emerged from the bedroom of our then-17-year-old founder, Amani, whose dream was to eliminate the sufferings of her family and community at large.
And we’re still tenaciously in the weeds of this mission to ensure a better future for our upcoming generations.
Why 9/11 This Year Comes With More Obligations
2023 marks the second year of our second decade of pushing against all forms of injustice and discrimination targeting our communities in the West.
As we reflect on our progress, we can’t help but acknowledge the positive instances of attention that our Muslim community amassed over the past years.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to look at your personal circle and think to yourself that having the support of your classmates and friends now substantially means “progress.”
While such accomplishments supposedly mean that we’re achieving groundbreaking milestones, at a closer look, all the data from the past two decades proves otherwise.
Politics & Social Justice
According to a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center, 46% of Americans believe Islam is more prone to violence than other religions. Additionally, 49% of respondents are concerned about the rise of Islamic terrorism in the U.S.
Connotations like “violence,” “radicalism,” and “extremism” have become erroneously synonymous with Islamic values — which we could witness on multiple occasions with our Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
And let’s not forget all the Muslim women and girls who had their hijabs snatched from their heads in the U.S. and France; Muslims who had to tolerate the inappropriate acts of TSA; Uyghur Muslims who have been through brutal confinement; or Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who have suffered assaults during her unjust 86-year sentence.
It’s heart-wrenching that the mainstream still refuses to acknowledge that crimes aren’t associated with specific race, faith, or any sort of identity facet.
Any crime committed is, and should be, the responsibility of the doer(s) and the doer(s) alone. But what our society does until this present moment is take their hasty generalization fallacy as their definition of “truth.”
If we followed this approach ourselves, then non-Muslim White Americans would be perceived as potential “mass shooters” — especially when we see White Americans have been responsible for 78 out of 147 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982 till August 2023.
Now, hold that thought about mass and school shootings as we reveal the most ironic fact.
Speaking of Muslim representation in the entertainment and filmmaking industry, make no mistake, it’s definitely the infamous antagonist who has some sort of weapon and anger issues.
According to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s report, Erased or Extremists: The Stereotypical View of Muslims in Popular Episodic Series, 76.7% of the sampled Muslim characters played the role of the antagonists of the plot where they used firearms, vests with explosives, or bombs.
The report also revealed that one of the words used to describe Muslim roles in TV and film is “school shooter” — which should ring a bell by now.
So Are We Really Making Progress? Or Are We Running in Circles?
With the current status quo within the U.S. and Western societies, we know that we still have a long journey ahead of us. As painful as it is to admit after 22 years, we know that we can’t afford to stay complacent with our current progress.
While we shouldn’t be asked or expected to justify something we never committed, we’re fully aware that the only way to overcome this is to stand our ground and keep fighting for our rights.
Only then, upcoming Muslim generations can live the life we wish we could’ve had. We, too, can’t — and won’t — forget 9/11.