With today being the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we decided to ask Gen Z how they’ve been impacted by the events that took place when they were just a baby — or perhaps not even born yet.
Our question: “If you’re a Muslim under 21 years old, how do you perceive the events of 9/11? Have have you or your identity been impacted?”
Here are some of the responses we received.
Reem Saood, 15:
I was bullied and was called a terrorist at the age of 10. My supposed “friends” would joke about that and it hurt me, because how does a 10-year-old girl have anything to do with terrorism?! I hated my culture, I hated where I was from…I always wanted to be from a different place than the Middle East or Iraq. But as i let those toxic friends go, I realized who I am and how lovely my culture was.
Atiya Idris, 17:
I see 9/11 as the event that really changed and shook America. Because of it, Homeland Security was created, people appreciate first responders more, stuff like that. But it really shook America because it was the first time since Pearl Harbor that America was attacked. The challenges after 9/11 hit Muslims the most, IMO, because we were attacked as Americans, but then fellow Americans turned around to attack us. I was born in 2004, so I grew up with Islamophobia all around me. It’s always been scary to tell people I’m Muslim and to be visibly practicing. My mom has a trouble traveling because her last name is like a red flag for TSA, and she wears hijab. My dad used to have a huge beard and pray at work, but had to stop over the years because of Islamophobia from 9/11. Almost every year on September 11, when they talk about what happened, everyone turns to me and other Muslim students to blame us — like dude we weren’t even born yet.
Sihaam Ali, 19:
I wasn’t born when 9/11 happened. I was still in my mom’s belly, and even though I’m European, 9/11 has had a massive impact on my life. 9/11 affected the rise in Islamophobia and it has changed how the West perceives Muslim. As a visible Muslim woman in a Scandinavian country, the Islamophobia is horrible and it is everywhere. From weird looks on the street, to politicians banning niqabs to employers rejecting hijabs. Being a visible Muslim is difficult especially in Europe.
I’m a 19-year-old Black hijabi living in Denmark, which is a lot. Malcom X once said that the most disrespected person in America is a Black woman. Well, in Denmark it is the Muslim women, so imagine being both. I have been exposed to a lot of racism and Islamophobia growing up. Ever since I can remember, the hate towards Muslims have always been a massive thing in Danish politic and media. The debate regarding immigrants and Muslim women have always been a huge topic. You see, I don’t know what life was before 9/11, but I know that 9/11 was a turning point, and it definitely has changed how Muslims are being perceived. The hate crimes and hate speech towards Muslims (especially visible Muslims) have increased. The hate speech in particular is almost normalised in Denmark — even politicians engage in it, from banning the burka to encouraging hijabis to take the hijab off.
This has made my life difficult. My whole life, I have had to explain my reason to wearing the hijab, and how there’s power in modesty! Yet the likelihood for a hijabi to get a high-paying job in Denmark is very slim, and I personally know a lot hijabis that have been rejected from jobs solely because of their hijab — to a point where the employer was willing to offer the job if the person shown up without the hijab. Social media has raised a lot of awareness, and has given Muslim women everywhere a platform to speak up, but also a place of belongingness. I must say I’m so grateful for the Muslim Girl account for this exact reason. 💜
Rania Droubi, 19:
9/11 breaks my heart, and is such a tragic incident to remember. However, growing up in America post-911 and being an Arab Muslim impacted me by changing the way other people viewed me. In school, kids would make jokes about Muslims being terrorists. As a little kid trying to fit in and make friends, it would make me feel like an outcast. This caused me to not share that part of myself when I meet people because of how many judgmental and hurtful comments I’ve gotten. Over time, I grew from it and decided to embrace it. I’ve taught a lot of people about the topic of Islam, and what it actually stands for, not the stereotype that “Muslims are terrorists and bad people.” I made it my goal to change people’s perspective and open their minds to the world. My heart goes out to every loss in 9/11 and I want to remind everyone that Islam is all about peace and real Muslims have no heart to hurt others. May Allah bless everyone and protect us all. 💖
Sophia Shaikh, 14:
I was born after 9/11, so I can’t really explain how it felt before. But I can tell you that my experiences have not been the best. I was three-years-old when I had to spend more than five hours in an airport in Miami because of an “emergency check” because my dads name was Muhammad. I’ve been asked questions like “Are you a terrorist?” I’ve been told I’m evil. I was asked why my skin was different in kindergarten. I’ve been given looks when I shared my faith. It truly breaks my heart when I’m told that this only became prominent after the events of 9/11. Every time the day comes, I somehow feel responsible for the pain caused by others. Every time the event is mentioned, nobody ever forgets to mention that the attackers were Muslim. It breaks my hear that some people would believe that it is a representation of my beautiful and peaceful faith, and that some will never be able to understand the truth, and place blame on faith instead of the individuals.
I always feel hesitant to share my experiences with my faith because I’m worried that the people around me may feel this way towards Islam. I’m glad that some people have started to respect our faith more, but even now people compare us to the people who commit terrorist attacks and blame us for it. And even now, Muslims all around the world, and many of my Muslim sisters have tragic experiences of hatred from others relating back to this very event.
Mira Rasheed, 14:
Whenever my aunt would come to school for conferences or meetings, people would be like “Is she hiding a bomb under there?” or “Has she come to blow up the school?” And I would be really ashamed — I still struggle with it — anytime my aunt would come to school. When my mom explained to me what the hijab is for, and what it means, I still don’t want to wear it because of all the guilt and shame — I don’t want to hear people’s comments about it.
Nurul Sarıya binti Ramlan, 25:
I just remember it being a tragedy. Not just to Muslims because of the aftermath, but also to humanity. It catapulted the world to hate and divide us so much that I, a Southeast Asian kid who was so far away from where it happened, will grow up fearing to wear the hijab whenever she’s abroad. My father purposely removed the “bin” (and consequently the “binti” for his girls) in his name so he wouldn’t be targeted or greeted with suspicion whenever we go through airports. I remember when we were going through UK immigration at the airport, and how the officer was the rudest person to us as a family, but was kind and attentive to the family before us.
Rola Hamza, 20:
I was born about a month prior to 9/11, which also happens to be my parents anniversary. After I was at an age where I was consciously aware and I understood what exactly happened on 9/11, I lived in Ohio till I was about six. My family had been there for about 11 years at that point, since 2007. I was definitely bullied by people. I got a lot of shit for being a hijabi, and it slowly led me to taking it off. And I always struggle with my identity because when the world has demonized Islam and uses it against us, I always felt the need to defend myself. I didn’t care what it cost for me to prove them wrong. Eventually, it got to a point where I got lost in the cycle of needing to prove myself. But once I saw this quote, and it said “if God is with you, who can be against you?” And it reminds me that Allah SWT always and forever will know what’s in my heart, and my identity is completely in His hands, and I just need to trust myself to take the leap of faith.
Zara Nabi Mahmood, 15:
Well I was born some years after that, and I’m not from the United States. I haven’t experienced much racism through my life, even though I went to a all-white school with people that don’t believe in anything. But when I was in 7th or 8th grade I started to get to know what 9/11 really was. And I was devastated. I wasn’t really proud to be Muslim at that time because I saw it as a burden; that I couldn’t do anything since I was Muslim. Fortunately, I don’t look at Islam that way anymore. I’m a proud Muslim and it’s a part of my identity. But back to 9/11. As I said, I was devastated. I was devastated because I couldn’t understand why people could hate a whole religion with so many different people just because of an attack that “Muslims” were behind? They literally thought just because one group did what they did, the rest of us were the same. I really couldn’t get my mind around it at the time, and I still don’t think I can.
As I said, I haven’t experienced that much racism through my life but, in 7th grade that kind of changed. People in my class and school started to shout “Allahu akbar” all the time and start laughing. And talked about ISIS often. I’ve had I sheltered life, so I didn’t know about that before I heard them talking about it. And I started to be ashamed of who I was because of that. It took me some years to get where I am now, where I am comfortable with who I am, but I’m glad that I did.
I was born seven years and 16 days after 9/11. The reason I know the exact number of days is because I have to constantly explain it to racists who don’t seem to understand that not all Muslims are terrorists. And the fact that someone who wasn’t born yet can’t participate in a terrorist attack. Twenty years later, my whole religion and beloved country (Pakistan) are still blamed. Now don’t get me wrong, 9/11 is a tragedy, yet its legacy is two forever wars, and a little girl born more the half a decade later who is a proud patriot, yet is also too afraid to say where she is from.
Aseela Galeeb, 15:
I think the attacks were a gamechanger for Muslims all around the world. And not in a good way. They increased hate crimes exponentially. The targets of these hate crimes were mostly hijabis because they were the easiest and most recognizable target. There is no denying that someone’s first thought when the word “Muslim” comes up has to do with 9/11. Personally, I’m worried for the anniversary on Saturday.
Man, it’s so tough being stared at at school especially if the 9/11 anniversary was on a school day that year. People just look at me funny and it genuinely hurts because a) I have nothing to do with it; it’s not my fault — I wasn’t even born then and b) it’s literally my birthday. But like, perceiving it…it’s weird, I must say. Really upsetting too, and my heart aches for the people who lost loved ones because of that horrible day. It’s so rough, it’s really hard every year, especially when it hit that it was a real thing that happened and real people were hurt by it. And this year too, it’s just driving me insane. It hurts a lot. It really does. It’s terrible, all parts of it, and I pray for everyone who had to suffer. 💜😔
Khandaker Ridwan, 19:
Growing up, I was used to being called terrorist…in elementary school it’s something kids used to “joke around” about. As I get older, I realize how normalized Islamophobia was and still is.
Muslim children should not have to grow up thinking they are terrorists…we should be able to practice our faith without being linked to a terrorist attacked. 9/11 is a terrible tragedy, and we will never forget the lives lost that day. However, there are many lives affected that many Americans DO NOT talk about…like the innocent Middle Eastern people who lost their lives as a result of the “war on terror” and the Muslim American children growing up who have been bullied their whole lives. If people can differentiate between the KKK and Christianity, why is it different when it comes to Al-Qaeda and Islam?