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Twenty years after 9/11, Muslim Americans are still fighting prejudice | Lifestyle

MARIAM FAM, DEEPTI HAJELA, LUIS AND RESHEN AOAP communication

New York (AP) — A car passed by, a driver’s window rolled down, and a man spit out the adjective “terrorist!” To two girls in hijabs.

In 2001, just weeks after the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, 10-year-old Shahana Hanif and his sister were walking from their Brooklyn home to a local mosque.

I don’t know, afraid, the girl ran.

As the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack approaches, Hanif can still remember the shock of the moment, her confusion about how everyone can see her, her children, and the threat.

“It’s not a good word. It means violence and danger. It means shocking the person who receives it,” she says.

However, the incident also spurred a determination to speak for herself and others who helped bring her to her current location. Community organizers strongly supported winning a seat in the New York City Council in the next local elections.

Other young American Muslims, like Hanif, grew up in the shadow of 9/11. Many face hostility and surveillance, distrust and suspicion, questions about Islamic beliefs, and doubts about Americanness.

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They also found ways to move forward, confront prejudices, organize, and create subtle personal stories about identity. In the process, they have built bridges, challenged stereotypes, and opened up new spaces for themselves.

“This feeling of being a Muslim as a kind of important identity marker, regardless of its relationship to Islam as a belief,” is Eman Abdelhadi, a sociologist at the University of Chicago studying the Islamic community. Says. “It was one of the major impacts on people’s lives … it shaped the way the community developed.”

An Associated Press-NORC Public Relations and Research Center poll conducted prior to the 9/11 anniversary found that 53% of Americans were against Islam, while 42% were positive. I found that I was looking at it. This is in contrast to Americans’ views on Christianity and Judaism, where most respondents expressed their positive views.

Distrust and suspicion of Islam did not begin in 9/11, but the attacks dramatically increased their hostility.

Youssef Chouhoud, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, was accustomed to being ignored or targeted by low-level harassment, which brought the country’s vast and diverse Islamic community into the limelight.

“Not only Muslims, but also American Muslims, had a better sense of who you were,” he says. “What made you stand out as an American Muslim? Can you be completely both, or did you have to choose? What does that mean? There was a lot of work on it. “

In the case of Hanif, there was no blueprint to overcome the complexity of the time.

“I wasn’t too naive or too young to know that Muslims were at risk,” she later wrote in an essay on the aftermath of 9/11. “… I didn’t become an American by blinking the American flag through the window on the ground floor. Just because I was born in Brooklyn doesn’t mean I became an American.”

The young Hanif gathered friends in the neighborhood, and his older cousin helped them write a letter to then-President George W. Bush asking for protection.

“We knew we would be like warriors in this community,” she says.

However, being a warrior often comes at a cost, and the wounds are long-lasting.

26-year-old Ishaq Pathan recalls when he said the boy seemed angry and thought he might blow up a school in Connecticut.

He remembers the helplessness he felt when he was taken to the airport for additional questions when he returned to the United States after his college semester in Morocco.

The agent examined his belongings, including the laptop that kept the private journal, and began reading it.

“I said,’Hey, do you have to read it? The agent” looks at me like this. “You know, I can read anything on your computer. .. I have the right to do anything here. And at that time, I remember tears in my eyes. I was completely and completely helpless. “

The pattern couldn’t accept it.

“You go to school with other people from different backgrounds and … understand what the promises of the United States are,” he says. “And when I see it failing to fulfill that promise, I think it instills in us a sense of wanting to help and fix it.”

He is currently working as the San Francisco Bay Area Director of the non-profit Islamic Networks Group and wants to help the younger generation build confidence in their Islamic identity.

Pattern recently chatted with a group of boys about their summer activities. From time to time, boys ate watermelons and played on trampolines. At other moments, the story got serious. What if students pretend to blow themselves up, shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is wonderful”? What can they do about portraying Islamic stereotypes on television?

“I always considered 9/11 to be probably one of the most important moments in my life and in American life,” says Pathan. “The aftermath of that … has driven me to do what I’m doing today.”

The aftermath also helped Shukri Olow motivate her to do — run for the office.

Born in Somalia, Orow fled the civil war with his family and came to the United States at the age of 10 after living in a refugee camp in Kenya for years.

She found her home in a vibrant public housing complex in Kent, south of Seattle. There, residents of different countries communicated across language and cultural barriers, borrowing salt from each other and seeing each other’s children. Orow felt she prospered in the environment.

Then 9/11 happened. She remembers feeling confused when the teacher asked her, “What are your people doing?” But she also remembers others who said, “I said this wasn’t our fault … and we need to make sure you’re safe.”

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in the United States found that nearly half of respondents experienced at least one religious discrimination within a year. Still, 49% said someone had expressed support for them because of their religion the previous year.

Overwhelmingly, the survey found that respondents were proud to be both Muslims and Americans. For some people, including Olow, there were occasional identity crises.

“‘Who am I?’ — I think this is what many young people generally experience in life,” she says. “But for us living at the crossroads of anti-blacks and Islamophobia … it was really hard.”

However, her experience from that time also helped to shape her identity. She is currently looking for a seat in the King County Council.

“There are many young people with multiple identities who don’t belong here and feel unwelcome here,” she says. “I was one of those young people, so I do everything I can to make more people aware that this is also our country.”

Since 9/11, some American Muslims have chosen to dispel misunderstandings about their beliefs by building personal connections. They shared coffee and broke bread with strangers, answering countless questions, from how Islam sees women and Jesus to how to fight extremism.

Mansoor Shams has traveled all over the United States with a sign that says, “I’m a Muslim and a US Marine. Ask me anything.” It is part of a 39-year-old effort to teach others to counter his faith and hatred through dialogue.

Shams, who served in the Marines from 2000 to 2004, has been called by fellow Marines since 9/11 by names such as “Taliban,” “Terrorist,” and “Osama bin Laden.”

One of his most memorable exchanges was at Liberty University in Virginia, where he said he spoke with Christian institutional students in 2019. Some call him for questions about Islam, he says.

“There is this mutual love and respect,” he says.

Shams hopes he didn’t need his current job, but feels responsible for sharing the counterarguments he says many Americans don’t know.

33-year-old Ahmed Ali Akbar came to another conclusion.

Shortly after 9/11, some adults in his community arranged a rally at his school in Saginaw, Michigan, where he and other students talked about Islam and Muslims. Akbar devoted himself to his research. But he recalls his confusion with a few questions: where is Bin Ladin? What is the reason behind the attack?

“How do you know where Osama bin Laden is? I’m an American kid,” he says.

During that time, he felt that trying to change people’s minds was not always effective and that some were not ready to hear.

Akbar finally focused on talking about Muslim Americans in the podcast “See Something Say Something.”

“There is a lot of humor in the experience of Muslim Americans,” he says. “It’s not just about violence and … racism and sadness and reaction to Islamophobia.”

He also came to believe in building different types of connections. “Our fight for our civil liberties is tied to communities that have been pushed to other limits,” he said, emphasizing the importance of defending them.

For some, 9/11 resulted in a different kind of racial calculation, says Debbie Almonterser, a Yemeni-American educator and activist in New York.

She says many Arab and South Asian immigrants have come to the United States as doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs in search of the American dream. “Then the 9.11 incident happened and they realized they were brown and they were minorities. This was a big awakening call,” says Almonterser.

Today, racial tensions are rising in the Islamic community in the United States. For example, protests of racial justice caused by the murder of George Floyd have brought many Muslims to the streets to condemn racism.But they also spurred the interior Calculation About racial equality between Muslims, including the treatment of black Muslims.

“For me, my struggle as an African-American Muslim is still in race and identity,” says Imam Ali Aquill, a Muslim American Cultural Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

“When we go to a (Islamic) center and have to deal with the same pain we deal with in the world, it gives us the impression that we are not Islamic. It’s a kind of disappointment for us. There are racial and ethnic disparities. “

Amira Ahmed, 17, was born after the attack and, despite being “American like anyone else,” feels like she’s entered a struggle rather than her own.

She said she wanted to skip the next year’s event because she felt the students staring at her and her hijab at a 9/11 commemorative ceremony at a school in Virginia a few years ago. remember.

When her mother dismissed the idea, she instead wore her American flair as a shield and a scarf with the American flag to address her classmates from the podium.

Ahmed talked about celebrating the lives of those who died in the United States in 9/11, but also about celebrating the lives of Iraqis who died in the war that began in 2003. “A really powerful moment.”

But she wants future children not to feel the need to prove that they belong.

“Our kids will be (here) well after the 9/11 era,” she says. “They shouldn’t have to keep fighting for their identity.”

Fam, reported from Cairo, Egypt, covers Islam of AP’s Global Religious Team. Hennao covers the faith and youth of the team.He is on twitter http://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao .. Hajela has covered New York City for 22 years and is a member of AP’s team covering race and ethnicity.She is on twitter http://twitter.com/dhajela .. AP video journalist Noreen Nasir also contributed to this report.

The Associated Press’s religious coverage is supported by Lilly Endowment through The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright 2021 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.



Twenty years after 9/11, Muslim Americans are still fighting prejudice | Lifestyle

Source link Twenty years after 9/11, Muslim Americans are still fighting prejudice | Lifestyle

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