Sunday, September 11, 2011

How People Treated Me, A Muslim New Yorker, After 9/11

Everyone seems to remember where they were on September the 11th I remember my school bus stopped at a point where we could see the New York City skyline. The towers were missing and in its place was smoke that lasted for days. The bus driver mentioned that he heard that the people who did it were Palestinian and that they were dancing in celebration of the attacks. A girl in the next seat mentioned to her friend that she learned in school that Muslims believe they will go to heaven if they die as martyrs. I quickly corrected her, telling her that Muslims are not allowed to injure innocent civilians, even in war. I made dua to Allah, asking Him to please not make the people who did this Muslim. But subhanAllah (Glory be to God), Allah knows what is best for us and we are limited in our knowledge. 

 My brothers and I didn't go to school the next day, because my parents were worried about how people would treat Muslims. We didn't know what to expect. People never even heard of Islam before this and these attacks weren't the best introduction to a blank slate. 

When I finally came back to school, everyone treated me...
exactly the same way they had before. We probably talked about what was going on in Dragon Ball Z and how we couldn't wait for Yu-Gi-Oh to start. Sure, there were times where people made insensitive jokes or teased me, because I was Muslim, but for the most part, people treated me as they would treat anyone else. I was never made to feel like I was less of an American or a New Yorker, because of what happened on 9/11.

A few months later, my family and I went to visit Ground Zero, the ruins of the World Trade Center. A middle aged white woman came up to my mom, who was wearing a headscarf and did one of the nicest things I have ever seen. She told my mother that she understood that Muslims are not to blame for the attacks and that the people who did it were a few bad apples. They talked for a while and before they departed, she asked for a hug. At the time, I thought it was really awkward, but now that I think of it, I realize that it's an example of how most people are genuinely good. 

Although many people had a worse experience than I did, I still believe that most people don't want to hate or discriminate, but want to live in peace with their neighbors. The places where I see real hate, isn't in my day to day activities, but on TV by people who use it for personal gain. I see it used by politicians who want votes, by elected officials who want to justify war and by pseudo intellectuals who want to sell their books or be paid to go on lecture tours. Unfortunately, 9/11 has been used far too often in this decade to justify causing extraordinary harm to people and nations. In this coming decade, let's use 9/11 the same way that stranger did with my mom, to reach out to one another, build bonds and promote peace. 

In the comments section: Where were you on 9/11? What are your most distinct memories from that day? Did anyone treat you differently, because of the attacks? 

And don't worry, I didn't forget about the conclusion to the last post, Basketball Blunders. It will be up shortly InshAllah (God willing).