#afterseptember11 – giving a voice to the unnamed victims

After September 11 Graphic

Mouna Algahaithi, News Editor

On September 11, amidst the memorial services and flashbacks of the World Trade Center attacks, Twitter exploded with the hashtag #afterseptember11. In less than 24 hours, over 50,000 accounts of racial profiling, vilification, and microassaults experienced by Muslims living in the U.S after 9/11 were shared, voicing stories rarely heard from indirect victims of these attacks.

“#afterseptember11: Imagine being 9 and wondering why your teacher decided to call on you and ask you why your faith advocates for bombings.” – @halimahello

For most Americans, September 11 was an introduction to Islam, and the religion and its followers were quickly thrown into a spiteful stereotype. The chances of someone knowing that jihad really means the struggle with oneself, or that Jesus was an important prophet in Islam, are slim.

Being born Muslim, I constantly battle the Islam I’ve learned at home and the Islam I see outside my door. When I watch the news, I don’t see a community of Muslims who care about one another, who give charity, who pray five times daily and respect women, believing in equality. Islam says that we’ll all be judged according to our deeds, despite our skin color or wealth. Islam teaches that heaven lies at the feet of mothers, and respecting parents and elders is utmost. This is my Islam, but it’s not the familiar image of Islam to most.

“#afterseptember11, my parents genuinely asked my brother if wanted to change his name bc it was Osama. He was 9,” another user, @Nahwalnut, shares.

As a 20-year-old Muslim American, I’ve never known what it’s like to not feel the weight of the hijackers’ “Islamist” actions on my shoulders. I’ve been forced to survive in their shadows. All Muslims were the subtle victims of the atrocities of 9/11. I’m not saying that the 2,996 American lives that were lost don’t deserve remembrance; every life matters. In less than a month after 9/11, Bush schemed the invasive “war on terror” plot to eradicate terrorism in the Middle East, specifically Afghanistan at the time, but the attack’s aftermath has killed thousands more in Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and other countries in endless wars that continue to affect us today.

Thereby the lexicon and priorities of American news and media were altered. Buzz words such as jihad, al-qaeda, extremism, entered our daily language as media perpetuated hatred and xenophobia against Muslims. It was as if terrorism had not existed prior to 9/11, as if terrorist acts committed by a few crazy individuals who claim to do things in the name of an innocent religion are legitimate representatives of all 1.57 billion of us.

While Muslims who have been living in warzones, losing millions of their familes, friendsIf we aren’t being targeted by air missiles or driven from our lands, we’re dealing with microaggressions and constant harassment here in the United States.

After September 11:

A brilliant 9th grader arrested for creating a homemade clock.

Three college students murdered in Chapel Hill.

A mother of five brutally beaten to death in her own home in California with a note reading, “go back to your country. you’re a terrorist”.

The only portrayal of Muslims on television are violent extremists.

Anyone who looks Muslim is almost guaranteed to be “randomly selected” at an airport.

I have to defend my religion and watch every action and word I say in fear of adding to the stereotypes.

I watched the only visibly Muslim teacher in my high school stop wearing her headscarf because she couldn’t take the constant verbal and physical assaults.

The terrorist attack lasted for a day, but the attacks on Islam have yet to end; the men who hijacked those planes that day also hijacked our religion. This is the aftermath, and it’s unacceptable to dehumanize the lives lost because they live over there. Every life matters, whether it’s before or #afterseptember11.

Every year, we have an annual reminder of the atrocities that began our terrorized reality. We, as Muslims, will not take the blame for the actions committed by sick individuals who attempt to use our religion as an excuse to commit atrocious acts. 14 years later, it’s about time our voices are heard.