They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.
Posted by Anni on Monday, March 19th, 2012
Before 9-11 the word Muslim meant Muhammed Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Malcolm X. To an American teenager, these associations were formative. Muslims were pop culture icons. They were idolized alongside the rest of our political figures, sports stars, and Hollywood actors. But then 9-11 happened and everything changed. I think this is a tragic but deeply interesting example of how our media, our politicians, and our prejudices can transform our cultural perceptions, shaping the prejudice of an entire generation.
We all know that 9-11 was a terrible violent act. But the maelstrom that happened in its aftermath was almost as violent and terrible, and I’m not even talking about the phantom WMD-led wild goose chase war. Watching the news in the weeks and months after the event was like taking a course in how to plant fear, water it, give it sun, and make it grow strong. Everyone felt vulnerable after the attacks. Suddenly, no matter what part of the country we lived in, how wealthy we were, or how safe we’d felt before, we were all victims. I remember feeling like my family could be in danger. It was the first time in my life I’d ever felt like that.
It’s telling that I’d never felt that fear before. America has been an extremely peaceful place to live for a very long time. We’ve forgotten how it feels to be in danger in our own homes. When we felt that danger for the first time in many years, we reacted poorly, and there was nobody—not the media, not the president, not the academics—there to hold our hands, to speak a calming word, to remind us of our privilege and our safety.
So, systematically, we re-defined what it meant to be a Muslim in America. My mom is a professor and three of her Muslim students dropped out of school in the weeks after the attacks. They were the targets of the other students’ fear. Today, Muslim people in the U.S. live in fear of islamophobia every day. Today, when the word Muslim hits our popular consciousness, we don’t think of those people like Malcolm X who made our country what it is today. We think of terrorist plots and Guantanamo Bay and war. I’m sure this is not the legacy the victims of 9-11 would have hoped for. We have a responsibility to make our kids listen: we need to teach them about the great Muslim people in our nation’s history. The next generation decides our future. Let’s make it a future we can be proud of.