I don’t remember what happened on September 11, 2001. I was only a year old on that tragic day.
Growing up, I’ve heard a lot about it, and that’s enough for me — I can’t even imagine how devastating that day was for anyone who lost someone close.
I will also never forget how the events on 9/11 impacted Muslims.
Growing up, I was raised with the belief that Islam is not like this. Islam is not 9/11.
Islam is a religion of peace and love, so every time I hear someone comparing Islam to 9/11, it makes me want to change people’s perspective of what they think Islam is, because what happened that day is exactly what Islam isn’t.
As a Muslim American, whenever I hear the news, I stay quiet because I feel like if I do say something, people will wonder what my intent is. Will they think I’m a terrorist, too? Then I realized I shouldn’t care what people think of my religion, because I am proud of who I am, and I’m proud to be an American Muslim.
It’s really unfortunate that the media seems to be deliberately trying to make Muslims look bad; nearly all the headlines involving Muslims are negative in nature.
In reality, you cannot judge a whole group of people by the actions of a few.
I know they look for “juicy stories” to air, but sometimes stories like this can ruin people’s lives, or even get them killed, because of the ignorance spreading around us. American Muslims are being attacked on American soil at unprecedented rates.
There’s so much fear, that just speaking your family’s native language can cause a problem. When we talk to someone over the phone, or even in person, even if we’re speaking mostly English, the mere mention of a word like “jihad” or “Allah” could trigger someone, or spark fear, because they don’t know the true meaning of it. If they did, they would change their whole perspective on Islam. Not only that, speaking your own language — whatever language that is — is a right we have as Americans; we should not be penalized for being bilingual.
People are so paralyzed by fear — Islamophobia — that even an utterance that sounds anything like Arabic is considered a flag. It’s to the point now that some people even believe our modest clothing can be harmful to others, which is ridiculous. If someone wants to wear an extra layer of clothing to be modest, they are automatically suspicious — a possible threat, which is not right if you ask me.
Just recently, a woman was praying in the public, and was later attacked for no reason. Well, I guess there is a reason: Ignorance. To me, this is a wakeup call, or it should be, anyway, for the media pundits who are spouting Islamophobic rhetoric. This is post-9/11 America, and I’m sure the anti-Muslim sentiments have gone farther than anyone ever imagined since Trump’s candidacy became an actual thing, and not just a joke.
This is all part of what I believe to be anti-Muslim propaganda, to portray us as the enemy. It’s widely believed that the Department of Homeland Security was created after the 9/11 attacks in an effort to keep out Arab and Muslim populations. The invasion of Afghanistan was also used as propaganda to convince the American people that Osama Bin Laden was somewhere out there in Central Asia, and whoever hid him (the entirety of the Afghan population) was to pay for it.
Those who lost someone on 9/11 weren’t the only ones affected; Muslims have been too. We’ve been surveilled, falsely accused, and even physically attacked. I constantly hear stories from my aunts, mother, and grandma, and it makes me both upset and afraid.
One of the stories that shook me to the core was that my own neighbor called the cops on us because he claimed we were terrorists. What’s sad is that this neighbor knew us really well.
Islamically, we are supposed to treat our neighbors with respect and love, so my family would always go over to him, and ask how he was doing, and then give him a box of chocolates. (No, they weren’t laced with arsenic or some other poison.)
But one day it all changed. That day, we had a gathering and all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives were at my house. My neighbor came over and threatened us by saying he would call the cops on us, and informing us that he wrote down all of our license plate numbers.
The next day, an officer shows up at our house, and says “We had someone call in and say that you guys were involved in an act of terrorism.” He then went on to say that he felt bad for having to come out and “investigate” when there was clearly nothing amiss, and apologized. He later told us that it was a neighbor of ours who made the allegations.
Shocked, my mom asked who it was, and the officer said he wasn’t allowed to say. My mom was upset, so she told him to tell us because this person could be a threat to us if they had the audacity to say that we were terrorists.
As it turns out, it was the same neighbor who threatened us the night before.
I still don’t understand how things changed so quickly. All I can say is that it took a while for my family to feel safe again.
When 9/11 happened, my grandmother was the only one who wore the scarf besides my mother, but we were all worried because of the attacks, so none of my family members left the house.
Another story I was told was about the morning of the attacks, when my mom was taking my brother to school at the mosque. She was wearing the scarf, and wasn’t even aware of what happened yet. She had no clue that life as she knew it was forever changed. She was simply driving my brother to school, when, all of a sudden, this truck driver behind her started threatening her, then chased her off the road, with my brother in the car, until she swerved into a ditch. She was so confused that she called my dad, and told him what happened. He didn’t know either, so when my mom finally shows up to the mosque, they were turning everyone away, saying “Go home; it’s not safe to be out right now.”
From then on, for quite some time, the mosque had to close its once always welcoming, always open gate for safety reasons because random people would show up and protest at the mosque.
Hearing all of these stories makes me contemplate the transition between the pre-9/11 and post-9/11 world. I’ve never known anything other than a post-9/11 world; I’ve never known anything other than today’s climate, where Muslims are treated unjustly, solely for their beliefs. It’s worse for women, especially women who wear the hijab.
Even though the media makes Muslims out to be “terrorists” or “threats,” I will always remember that we are not taught to be that way. I’m hopeful that one day other people will learn this too, and people will have compassion towards Islam instead of fear.
Written by Aneesah Muhammad