티wenty years ago, 19 men flew commercial planes into New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington DC. A total of 2,977 people died and several thousand others were injured. The world watched as the United States was attacked on its own soil by hijackers with the singular mission of ending human life.
In addition to planes, the terrorists, who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, hijacked the religion of more than 1.8 십억 명.
Muslim Americans endured years of racism at best, and hate-filled violence at worst. Mainstream political pundits lambasted Islam and its followers. Many women permanently removed their hijabs in the hope of evading domestic terrorism at the hands of ignorant strangers. Muslim communities were subjected to government surveillance in their mosques, homes, schools and places of work.
여기, Muslim Americans in the arts, politics, healthcare, education and the media speak about life over the last two decades and the permanent repercussions of that single moment.
I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Harlem.
I have seven brothers and five sisters, and my parents raised us Muslim; they converted before they met each other. I went to “gifted and talented” schools, which were not super diverse. So not only was I one of the only Black kids in school, but I was also the Black Muslim kid in full hijab – it just made me stick out like a sore thumb. 당시, I wished I wasn’t Muslim, because none of my friends were Muslim, and I very much felt like an outsider.
On the morning of 9/11, I was in a [high school] calculus class a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Our building shook. After a few moments, we decided everything was OK and continued with class. But then I saw this girl in the hallway who was hysterical, and I walked outside and saw everybody staring at the World Trade Center.
As I was going back to class, the second plane hit. Then I saw things falling. We thought it was debris, but as we looked closer, we realized there were people jumping. Camera crews were setting up around me and the hysteria was growing. I knew I had to get back uptown to Harlem, back to my family. So I just started walking – fast. Soon I hear people screaming and I turn around and see the building collapsing.
At that moment, I didn’t realize the smoke was going to chase us. I took off running – I still had my math book in my hand; I didn’t even have time to put it in my backpack. I’m half covered with soot and debris. I was thinking maybe this is an attack, maybe this is war, maybe this is the end of the world. Eventually I made it up to Harlem, covered in the remnants of what had happened.
Once we realized that our family was safe, we had to deal with the aftermath: they are saying this attack was done by Muslims, so what does this mean for us as a Muslim family? I remember the news reporting: this Islamic attack, this Islamic attack, this Islamic attack. And I was so afraid. What is my life gonna be like after this?
It sounds crazy, 그러나 9/11 did not change my life as a Muslim. Because I’m Black. And Black trumps Muslim in the United States all the time. I’d be walking around on edge like, I’m Muslim, blame me. But it was like, You’re Black. This ain’t about you. And it made me realize how invisible the Black Muslim community was and is in the US. And then it made me really defiant.
I used to go to Jumu’ah, which is Friday prayer, at my local masjid on 116th street in Harlem. 그러나 후에는 9/11, I started going to the masjid that opened up by the World Trade Center. There were protesters there every single day. I would be fearful of being in a building where some Islamophobic person might retaliate. But I also remember feeling not quite like an actual Muslim person either, because this is something that the brown community, not necessarily the Muslim community, was experiencing. I felt like an outsider there as well. At that time, people were blaming and discriminating against South Asians who wear turbans just out of ignorance. 그 동안에, I’m screaming from every street surrounding the World Trade Center, I’m Muslim! Say something! I felt really invisible.
Before 9/11, I don’t remember seeing Muslims portrayed on TV. 그러나 후에는, there was an uptick in narratives about terrorists, with Arab Muslims from a very specific region becoming the number one enemy for America. Before 9/11, you know who was trying to attack us in movies? Aliens! And after, it was the Taliban, Isis, Muslims. Everything became about war. Every time I heard the adhan, which is a call to prayer, in a movie or TV, that signaled something bad. But in my life, it represents the greatest thing – the opportunity to pray. I also felt like I couldn’t express my grief, because I wasn’t a part of it. It was like if I was an Arab Muslim, somebody would have had empathy for my experience.
There is so much more Muslim representation now, but there’s still no Black Muslim representation. Unless you’re in jail. My hope for representation is for our stories to be told, and it has to start behind the camera. Muslim families are just like any other family. Religion is not our entire identity – it’s something that you have faith in, it’s these tenets that you believe, it’s one part of us. I hope in the near future I can see a closer representation of what I experienced growing up as a Black American Muslim woman. And I hope that I can see it represented from a place of love and fun.
When I became a comedian, it was really important to make my identity clear. I identify as a Black Muslim woman. It’s in everything that I do. I’m so proud of it. I now have so many Muslim women associates and comedians in my life and their perspective is always from this place of having to hide being a Muslim. But my point of reference is pride. Because for my parents, finding Islam was a negating of Christian beliefs by way of slavery. So for me, Islam is liberating.
As told to Sam Levin
의 위에 9/11, I was a lawyer in Minneapolis. I was involved in politics but I had not thought about a political career much. That day I happened to be home waiting for the delivery of a couch. My kids and my wife were at work and school.
The delivery guys came in with the big couch and the TV was on. And then we stood there while we saw a plane go into the twin towers. We didn’t see the first one, as I recall. But we definitely saw the second one.
I remember the pain and the suffering. Americans from all walks of life were killed in that tragedy, including a lot of Muslims. There was a young man named Mr Hamdani. 그는 ~였다 23 years old and was a first responder. As most people were running away, he was bravely running into it to see who he could help. And he died in the tragedy. He was just a kid who had everything to look forward to.
I also remember that the Muslim community came under suspicion. Even though I pretty much disagree with everything George W Bush believes in politically, I was grateful to him that he stood up and spoke against anti-Muslim hate. He told folks, ‘If you commit hate crimes against Muslims, you’re going to be prosecuted.’ And I thought that that was a decent thing for him to do. Then when I went on to Congress and met him, he shook my hand. The first time I met him, 그는 말했다, ‘I’m glad there’s a Muslim in the Congress.’ I said, ‘Mr President, I’m glad there’s a Methodist in the White House.’ We laughed. That doesn’t mean that I agree with his policies. But it was a human thing.
9/11 changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to count. It turned me into an anti-war activist. 후 9/11, I thought that our response needed to be first rooted in compassion and humanity for the people suffering, then in gratitude for the people who stepped up and dealt with it. Then we need to consult the international community to find out who did this, identify them, and bring them to justice. When I ran for Congress, I did not expect to win. My predecessor retired, so everybody jumped into the race.
I was not trying to be the first Muslim [congressperson]. 그것은 2006. I shouldn’t be the first, I should be the 61st. But I was and I just did the best I could.
Some people wanted to turn me into ‘Oh, you’re not that Muslim, are you?’ Yeah, I kind of am. I am very Muslim. I am a fasting, praying, going-to-Hajj Muslim.
The Muslim community has undergone a lot of political education. Bernie Sanders was a major figure in the Democratic primary and his campaign was run by a Muslim – Faiz Shakir. Muslims own NFL teams, we don’t just play on them. The greatest American boxer – maybe the world’s greatest boxer – Muhammad Ali. Muslim. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the best center in the NBA history. You have Muslims winning film-making and journalistic awards. You’ve got Muslim rappers. Muslims are in every aspect of American life; it’s an indispensable contribution.
If there’s any benefit to the tragedy of 9/11, it’s that it forced Americans together. For a moment, we were one country very much unified. And it pushed the Muslim community together.
I did personally experience Islamophobia and sometimes I still do. I probably experienced a heck of a lot more Islamophobia than ever even registered with me. Glenn Beck said: “Prove to me that you’re not helping our enemies.” To me. I experienced it as humor because it’s so stupid. When I was in Congress, a guy named Tom Tancredo got up there and he said, ‘If there’s another terrorist attack, we should bomb Mecca.’ I’m like, you want to bomb a city that didn’t attack you? Because of what somebody else did? Jesus would never approve of that.
I remember back in 2006, the Muslim community was in a defensive crouch. It was in a fearful crouch. But your average white American is probably a heck of a lot less scared and worried about Islam than they were in 2001.
I’m a better Muslim today than I was before I ran for Congress. My prayers are more earnest. They’re more sincere. I try to plumb the depths of what they mean.
When you go through crazy circumstances, your faith really does have a way to keep you and sustain you.
I can’t believe it’s been 20 연령. It’s been a horrifically bad 20 연령, let’s be honest about that.
But I do believe that we’re in a different place right now than we were in 2001. I’m someone who has multiple identities. I’m experiencing 9/11 as a British Muslim, as a new American immigrant, as a journalist who covered it from day one. I have a lot of skin in the game – it’s both very personal and very professional.
I moved to the US in 2015. Donald Trump took over my working life. He took over my private life. 과 9/11 is similar – a news event that takes over your life, especially if you’re a Muslim journalist.
For two decades, professionally, it shaped a lot of what I wrote about, thought about, and did as a journalist. “Before 9/11” and “after 9/11” is a kind of marker for a lot of us.
당시, I was a researcher on a show called The Jonathan Dimbleby Programme in the UK – a prominent political program, where Jonathan would interview cabinet ministers, politicians, government ministers every Sunday. 후 9/11, for the next three to four months, we did nothing else but terrorism, the “war on terror”, 아프가니스탄, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq.
I remember the editor of the show at the time said to me: “You must get us some good Muslims! Who are the good Muslim guests out there?” Here was an editor of a show saying to me, ‘We need representation,’ and giving me the opportunity – or burden – of trying to find that person. As much as I criticized the British media at the time for not giving a voice to Muslims who weren’t crazy, there weren’t that many non-crazy Muslims in public life.
지금, look at the number of Muslims in Parliament. Look at the Muslim mayor of London. Look at Muslim journalists winning awards across the UK. But in 2001, you could count them on one hand and probably not even use all fingers.
I didn’t go in front of the camera until 2009. .
A lot of people tried to destroy my career because there is a very well organized faction of Islamophobes, both from kind of street-level thugs to prominent journalists and politicians, who don’t want people like me to have a platform. I think any Muslim in public life on either side of the Atlantic will tell you that. You speak to Keith Ellison, you speak to Ilhan Omar, you speak to Sadiq Khan in London – all of these people will say that there have been concerted efforts when they started saying stuff that didn’t fit the conventional wisdom on our foreign policy or on media coverage. There were concerted efforts to smear them as extremists.
I cannot find a Muslim in public life – sports stars, politicians, journalists – who has not at some point been accused of either being disloyal to their country or extremist in some way. Un-British and un-American.
Dealing with this over the years actually gave me a firmer grasp on my faith because it made me do the digging, the soul searching, and the researching – to have the difficult conversations with people. I’m not a religious scholar. But I have had to understand basic religious arguments, because unfortunately, a lot of what happened after 9/11 was to make it about “does Islam need a reformation? Does Islam need to be modernized?”
I had to wrestle with a lot of that and try and understand: how much of this is religion? How much of this is culture? How much of this is politics? How much of this faith? For me and my family and friends, who spent decades discussing this, we wouldn’t say we had a crisis of faith. I think we have actually had really interesting conversations about what means to be a Muslim in the west.
Muslims do not have thicker skins than everyone else. We’re not born with a natural ability to just with withstand non-stop criticism and accusations and smears. It’s really, really hard. And we understand when this was done to other communities in the past. We understand what happened to Jews in the 1920s and 30s. They were treated as aliens. We understand what happened to Black people in America.
I don’t think we’ve quite really had that conversation about what happened to Muslims over the last 20 연령. My children know, without even being told, what they can and can’t say in public and how not to behave suspiciously on a plane. It made Muslim communities who weren’t very political, who were quite apathetic, take control of our own destiny in our own stories.
I think the United States is a real cautionary tale. It’s what happens when you don’t push back against Islamophobia. When you allow terrorism and the fear of terrorism to take over your every walk of life. Even at the peak of the terror threat post-9/11, you are more likely to be killed by a lightning strike, to drown in your bathtub, or to be buried alive than to be killed by a foreign-born terrorist. That was never sufficiently transmitted by politicians and opinion formers in this country or in the UK. Muslims were so demonized.
You can justify domestic anti-terror budgets and police surveillance tactics in places like New York with the fear of terrorism. And a lot of liberals got on that train. A lot of liberals signed up for that. Even well-intentioned liberals helped spread that Islamophobic discourse that fundamentally helped the right.
Former president Bill Clinton 말했다, I’m sure with the best of intentions: “If you’re Muslim and you love this country, and you want to stay here, help us fight and win.”
Sorry, why are you questioning whether Muslims love America? Why are you suggesting the role of Muslims is to help you fight a war on terror? The ability to only see Muslims through the prism of terrorism and security and immigration is what led to a lot of our problems today.
I genuinely believe America today is in really bad shape. I wish I could be hugely optimistic about it. In the long run, I’m very optimistic about America. But as John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
Do I see a light at the end of the tunnel? 예, but the tunnel is a damn long tunnel.
The Mehdi Hasan Show is on Peacock and MSNBC
언제 9/11 happened, I was teaching in the state of Texas. I love teaching. That was my calling. The kids were like my own family. I was teaching English, usually Shakespeare, but that year, I was teaching a Spanish class to sophomores and juniors.
I knew that this was a major catastrophic event. I had to go into the next room to pick up the TV and rolled it into our classroom. And I said, “Kids, we’re not going to be doing the verbs exercises and we’re not going to talk about your projects right now. We have a serious event that I want all of us to watch, and to try to process together.” They had their heads on the desks. They couldn’t do anything. They were just watching the news.
It was a moment where I went from teacher to a counselor to a parent to a fellow American.
As a public school teacher, there was a big change from before 9/11 to after. There are people who would ask me questions, and in those days, I didn’t have the perfect answers because I hadn’t even studied my own faith as much.
I was very angry to the point of even checking my own sources to see if this is what I believe. These were not the verses that I had grown up studying. I had never seen anything like that in my life. It hurt deeply.
I certainly did wrestle with my faith, especially being a literature student. I was always into Buddhism and Taoism and dabbling in many different paths. So there were doubts I had when I realized man’s inhumanity to man. I went into deep soul searching and studying the Qur’an methodically and I discovered it was my faith that was also the healing factor. Education helped me to become more at peace with who I am and my identity as Muslim, but also as an American.
As a teacher, I care for all communities to find some sort of equality and justice. That’s what we stand for in America. I do not want my future generations – my children, my children’s children or neighbors’ children – to suffer tokenism, to suffer other-ness.
This should not be a choice – you can love your country and you can still love God. I want my children to feel that they are as American as anyone else, that they have the the joy of saying: ‘I’m American.’ I definitely don’t want them to have to suffer some of the bigotry that I had to live through to grow in my faith. 9/11 made America into such a polarized place. “Are you with us? Or are you against us?” And it was ironic because it was the same president who at that time, later on, corrected himself in a way by saying Muslims still belong. ‘It’s not Muslims we’re at war with.’
9/11 made America conscious of faith.
I was a little more on the lackadaisical side of “Muslim”. 9/11 made me conscious, and conscientious, about what it meant to have a personal relationship with God – the God who loves everyone, who is fair to everyone. And that took years and years to develop.
물론이야, there were microaggressive comments here and there. In the middle of a leadership seminar of 400 teachers, [the principal] said out loud: “By the way, are there any ‘Moz-lims’ in this group?” So I and an Egyptian American colleague raised our hands and we looked at each other. I had no idea why she was asking that question.
Another time, we were in an English team meeting studying Beowulf and planning a lesson for the students on the Anglo-Saxon culture. And all of a sudden, a young teacher blurted out, “Do y’all kill people during Ramadan?”
I also remember a very bright young student I taught. He came in class in a very jolly mood and said, “OK, so we’re learning from Mrs Saddam today.” And I said, “Yes, I’m Mrs Salam, and nice to have you. It’s gonna be a very good semester.” Later on, he apologized. 그는 말했다, “I didn’t mean that. That was just a joke.”
There was a lot of backlash, 물론이야, and I know that happens in any society. It took a while for me to say, “Embrace your identity” – just as I would want my African American sister or Jewish sister or Colombian sister to embrace their identity. I knew I had to do that at some point – and walk confidently in who I was.
I was a pulmonary critical care fellow at Columbia at the time. Somebody from the lab next door came over and said, “The world has changed for ever.” And it just so happened that we had a window that you can see the World Trade Center from.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We saw the second World Trade tower drop and I quickly ran to the phone because my mom worked down the street from the World Trade Center.
I got through to her and I told her to get out of there. After that we were disconnected.
There was an announcement that no physician could leave the hospital so my friend and I went down into the cafeteria. There was this eerie silence in the hospital. They were expecting a lot of casualties to come through because there had been a catastrophic event at the World Trade Center. And we were just sitting there waiting.
As time went on, there were no patients coming. At that moment, we sort of knew that there were no survivors.
They were allowing physicians to go down to the World Trade Center site so we drove my friend Sonia’s car.
“What can we do? How can we help?” we asked. Sonia and I did eye exams for all of the firefighters and the national guard troops who went into the World Trade Center to find people to recover. These troops were 18, 19-year-olds, going in, not even caring. We told them, “You can’t go back because you’re actually burning your corneas from the flames.” But they’re like, "아니, I can’t. I have to go in. My friends are in there.” It was really difficult.
As physicians, all you want to do is help but we felt very helpless. We couldn’t do anything to make it better.
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 actually saddens me. We lost so many people that day. And what makes me even more sad is that there’s so many people still dealing with the repercussions of that one moment in time. Whether it be healthwise or mentally, a lot of people have PTSD from it. And I think it’s going to be something that’s embedded in society for a very long time.
I felt angry. This sense that they had taken my religion and sabotaged it. Islam is so not about violence. It’s about peace. And then the fact that everybody believed that made me even more upset.
I grew up in this country. I always had this absolute love for this country and the possibilities that are here.
후 9/11, as physicians, we were now dealing with a lot of patients who had been exposed to 9/11. And I don’t think at that moment we understood what we were going to be dealing with in the long term. To this day, we’re dealing with individuals who were so short of breath from that one incident.
The day after, people came to my parents’ house to interview my dad because he has a beard. Then they went to my brother’s place of work and questioned him.
Those moments make you realize that you’re truly not accepted. You’re truly not considered to be American. In the back of your mind, you always thought of yourself as American, right? Those moments make you think, “Hey, wait a minute. They really don’t think of me as that.” And you can become jaded.
And of course, there’s those patients who are going to question and not want to see you because you’re Muslim or whatever. But at the same time, there’s just as many patients who are just so loving, so accepting, so grateful that you’re taking care of them.
Islam is the most beautiful, welcoming religion. I just hope that people understand that. And I say that for Muslims too. Muslims themselves should understand how wonderful and accepting of a religion it is and not exclude people from it.
Three months before September 11, I embraced Islam. I had been looking for a way of life that could connect me to the Creator. I looked into so many different religions. It was a friend of mine that I grew up with, after leaving a club, 사실은, that began the discussion about Islam. He wasn’t practicing at the time but it led to some curiosity.
After I embraced Islam, my girlfriend became Muslim a week later.
Then my dad began looking into Islam. He was open to all the different religions. I grew up wanting to read about so many different things in life because of him. I used to translate the lectures that people were giving in the mosque for him because he was curious to know about Islam. Soon, he became Muslim too.
So myself, my wife and my father being Muslim became the topic that was discussed. Women were taking off the headscarf in fear of being persecuted because of their religion, but my wife had just become Muslim and put it on. Her family thought I was forcing her to do that.
And because the Muslim community here in Houston didn’t have anybody to speak Spanish to, the media asked me to speak in front of Telemundo and Univision.
We had a choice now – if we’re going to look at ourselves as victims, or if we’re going to be going at the forefront and let people know that we’re not hiding. So with whatever Islam I had learned in three months, I began speaking in front of the media. And it was challenging because there’s many questions that they’re asking.
I studied multimedia and film and [my wife] studied graphic design and we created an organization called Islam in Spanish. And here we are today.
On September 11, I was in my room and my father came in telling me that this incident was going to change the world. It shocked me because my father doesn’t exaggerate.
I thought to myself, “I became Muslim to find balance and peace in life. 지금, an incident like this is going to put the Muslims on their heels to have to explain themselves.” That started a whole journey of educating, especially the Spanish-speaking people going and speaking in churches.
The Houston Chronicle did a piece: “New faith, changed man.” Because when I was young, I accidentally became a gang leader here in this neighborhood. So people were questioning, “Why? Why embrace Islam?” I used to tell people that the incident of September 11 was so distant from what I knew of Islam.
So we began a whole journey. Everybody’s lives were changed on September 11, but our lives were changed to the point that we now had a responsibility to explain to the people from our background in the Spanish language, when there were almost no books in Spanish about Islam.
We went on to produce over 400 television shows, 이상 500 audio books, and became the leading production organization explaining about Islam in the Spanish language. We were going to Harvard University to speak. We were invited to the White House in 2017, in the Obama administration.
This organization is a representation of us, trying to not only explain and educate, but also let people see Latinos and Muslims integrated in society. Unfortunately, 후 9/11, the image associated with Muslims and Islam was very negative.
I didn’t like the way Muslims were depicted. It was as if all Muslims are the same.
We are people that have this faith, but do not feel that those images represent our faith or who we are. We’re from here. We grew up here. My wife was born here. I came when I was eight years old. So it’s not ‘Accept me,’ it’s ‘Get to know me.’ I’m a Latino. I am a Muslim. And I’m an American. And now you’re gonna have to reconcile how these things work.
The diversity we find in the Latino community, and the diversity we find in the Muslim community, becomes the diversity we find in the American community.
It’s impossible to forget how I felt after 9/11, the worry and anxiety. At that point, I had lived 10 years in America as a refugee, still in the asylum process. It was devastating as a comedian and entertainer with my Palestinian Muslim background in the south. People were telling me that my career was over. That no one wanted to see a Muslim named Mohammed on stage. I was very scared.
My mom woke me up when the first building was hit. And then as we saw the next plane come in and the explosion, we’re like, “Oh my God, this wasn’t an accident.” It just blew us away. My mom and I were both in tears, watching people jumping out of buildings.
The saddest part of it all was that there were so many victims. I remember calling my friends in New York. My buddy Kenny, who was studying at NYU, and my buddy Andrew. My friend Pete Davidson lost his father because of 9/11.
Just hearing the sirens in the background – I get chills and choked up thinking about it.
It was a really traumatic thing that New Yorkers went through, that all of us as Americans went through. And particularly, Muslims were probably traumatized throughout that time for sure.
People were mentioning camps and putting Muslims in camps. They were referencing world war II and the Japanese [internment] camps. It was absurd.
It was painful because that’s not what Islam is. It goes against everything within Islam. It was being used and politicized. I hate the [terrorists] so much. As a believing Muslim, as someone who truly believes in a divine existence and a God over the entire universe, this is not what it’s about. Spirituality is oneness to me: one human race.
So that was very, very frustrating. It’s very sad. There’s nothing funny here.
What makes it more disgusting upon everything is that they decimated Iraq for this and it had nothing to do with it. All these innocent people died over politics.
I went out and did these tours across the world. I did a bunch of shows throughout the south, because that’s how you earned your wings as a stand-up comedian at that time.
I thought, “Man, you know what? What is the scariest audience to perform in front of? I want to do that.” It was the US military.
My opening line was, ‘Hi, guys. My name is Mo. It’s short for Mohammed. Surprise, bitches, today’s the day!’
It was so rewarding to not only be funny, make these people laugh in front of you, but also I had so many people walk up to me and apologize.
Let’s just break down these hypothetical walls. Stand-up and sharing something from the stage that is so relatable and universal, it can just completely devastate any fear-mongering. That’s it for me.
Join Moustafa Bayoumi and the Guardian’s Johana Bhuiyan 와 Naz Ahmad and Dr Debbie Almontaser in the livestreamed event on what has changed for Muslim Americans in the 20 몇 년 후 9/11 on Thursday 16 구월 2021 at 3pm EDT | 12pm PDT | 8pm BST | 9pm CEST. Book tickets here