Muslim student still feels ‘under the radar’ post-9/11
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 19:09
I remember the day exactly. I stayed home that day from school feeling sick. Watching Hey Arnold! on the Tuesday morning cartoon network, when my sister barged into the living room, book bag dangling over her shoulders, earlier and broke down crying. My mother and I both surprised and all she managed to get out between her babbled sobs was, “Turn on the T.V.”
Like every story, there are two sides. 9/11 created a barrier between Muslims and Non-Muslim Americans tighter than my Afghan grandmother knits her scarves. Wait a second, where do the Muslim Americans fall? Under the radar. Yep, the society really didn’t know what to do with us, other than monitor us very closely. Were we the terrorists that the media portrayed us as, or the civilized that felt the pain of the families who lost loved ones on this torturous day?
As a Muslim American living in the U.S., I feel the pain from both Muslim and American cultural stigmas. On one hand I feel the Muslim pain while the media stamps us with labels that evoke even more violence by both parties. As an New York-native and as a Muslim I can never forget all the innocent lives of those who were taken on that sunny morning.
How a single act can impact every corner of the world in such a revolting way. The actions of a small group of extremists so called “Muslims” have negated the perception of Muslims around the world and turned them against us. The beliefs of the 9/11 attackers are not shared with that of Islam. So really what is comes down to is the question: How can an individual call themselves something, when they do the exact opposite of what they stand for? They can’t.
There will always be exceptions. Unfortunately society loves to label groups with stereotypes. We do it with African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians, and other groups from all walks of life. Though I have been a practicing Muslim all my life, I promise I don’t own bombs, I have never seen a camel, nor do I like hookah. I don’t believe in arranged marriages or live in desert. Yet, I’m sure that that has crossed many people’s minds when they see me walking down the street.
After 9/11, no one felt safe: not in New York, not in the United States, not anywhere in the world. This attack of aggression sparked worldwide violence, as the pain was felt by many nations. This chain reaction of violence reached Europe, Asia and you guessed it—the Middle East. Muslims were portrayed as fanatics and terrorists who sorted their issues with violence.
The issue at hand is not Religion. It’s the fanatics who use religion as a weapon. Islam does not condone violence. Rather it teaches peace and how to live a good life. Trust me take it from a Muslim. What the Quran, the holy book of Islam, teaches is a way of life. It teaches you to treat your neighbor better then you treat yourself. It tells you to help the needy. It tells you be a good human being. Killing unarmed and defenseless people is not an Islamic belief.
I grew up being hated and ridiculed. People would throw things at me, curse at me, and bully me. After a while, the “Osama Bin Laden lives in your basement” jokes got old. I wanted desperately to purge myself from my scarf thinking it was the only way to stop the harassment. So I did. But that didn’t help. In the 6th grade my only friend said she couldn’t sit next to me during lunch because people were making fun of her too. What was that word again? Ah, terrorist! Who was I terrorizing walking to school? Who was I terrorizing getting an education? Who was I terrorizing working? Who was I terrorizing trying to practice my faith in this great country that stands to proudly for the freedom of religion?
9/11 put me in a state of mind to appreciate my freedom as an American citizen. Compared to other countries, we were fortunate enough to be living. There truly is no other place like the United States. I will never forget how 9/11 changed my New York City, how it changed my America, how it changed my Islam and how it changed my world.