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Tuesday, May 30, 2023


16 years later, people still forget Islam’s peace 

“We had a white supremacist rally held at our mosque on Jameel, and there was no one there. The threat of violence kept us from our faith,” said UH student Anusheh Siddique. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

Every year, this country mourns the day that its security was made vulnerable. September 11 made the United States realize that it, too, is subject to attacks. In place of its loss of security, it had to take someone else’s, even if that meant the securities of another citizen’s.

All people affiliated with Islam were dehumanized in a matter of hours after the attacks on the Twin Towers.

The extremists who carried out the attacks on 9/11 were not the first to do so in the name of religion. Christians have slaughtered indigenous people for ‘Manifest Destiny,’ claiming their God-given right to Native Americans’ land. And we’re all aware of some Catholic priests’ affinity for perversion. These individuals are extremists, and the actions of a few are not the paradigm of many.

Now, anyone who slightly resembles the stereotype of a Muslim man or woman is automatically profiled as a terrorist.

Take political science students Anusheh Siddique, a Pakistani and Muslim sophomore, and Yusuf Bavi, a Black American senior who converted to Islam.

Together, they represent different sides of the Islamic diaspora.

Departing without the Hijab

Anusheh Siddique is a Pakistani Muslim woman who chooses to not wear the hijab. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

Siddique recalls her experiences with how the country that she immigrated to has treated her since she was a kid.

Since 9/11 there have been measured increases in airport security as terrorists attempted more and more creative attacks. Nearly one in five Muslims said they had been singled out by airport security, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s all because TSA is afraid of brown skin.

“I remember having a stuffed dolphin, and they took it away from me in customs,” Siddique said.  “As a child, a wondered why an adult took my toy from me but now it’s symbolic because as a five-year-old, my only source of comfort was taken away because you’re suspicious of her whole race.”

In black and brown communities, effects of intrapersonal and internal racism can set in even at young ages. Though disassociating themselves from acts of terror whether they are of that group or not, people still recognize how they are presented to the public and act accordingly.

“In fourth grade, I was arguing with this Indian boy, and he shouts out me and says, ‘Go home, terrorist,’” Siddique said.

Siddique recounted three separate times when she or someone she loved was called a terrorist.

In some Muslim communities, their faith is one of the most important things in their lives. But the visual cues of their shade of melanin or their garb can sometimes invite violence and discrimination.

“Before my mom and my sister started hijab, we were a little more comfortable because we don’t necessarily look Muslim,” Siddique said. “When my sister first started hijab, my dad said, ‘Don’t go to work today,’ and it had been 13 years (since 9/11) at that point, and my dad was still scared that his daughter is going to suffer.”

Having a president like Donald Trump it has caused a myriad of worries for many minorities across the country, but Muslims have been especially targeted. Siddique recalls her sister saying, “Everyone else was cheering, but I felt like I was the funeral of my country,” when Trump got elected.

Siddique chooses to not wear the hijab. Her sister gave her comfort in her choice.

“I felt like the hijab is a public statement of your faith, and why should I have to publicly say something that I know myself?” Siddique said.

Siddique recalls her sister saying, “’My scarf isn’t for anyone else but for me and my creator, and that’s the only audience you need to cater to.’”

Coming to Islam

Yusuf Bavi is an African-American Muslim who converted at the end of his senior year. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

Bavi converted to Islam at the end of his senior year of high school. He was 18 years old at the time.

“At that point, I felt genuinely very Muslim, but in hind sight, I think I was I was trying to search for a better way of life and to avoid the traps society has for a young black male,” Bavi said. About 20 percent of Muslim American adults are black, and 76 percent of converts switch before they turn 30.

Before converting, Bavi was agnostic while his mother was a Black American Christian and his father was an Iranian Muslim.

Unless they are wearing certain clothing or speaking Arabic, most people don’t associate Islam with Black people. However, Bavi says he has never felt he has been able to hide his background. “I can’t hide it because of my name. It’s my born name.”

Being a minority is already hard, but adding multiple minorities to your identity doubles down the prospect for discrimination. I thought Muslim community would need to take extra precautions on the anniversary of 9/11, but Bavi said he did not feel it.

“Not on that day, but it’s other days,” Bavi said. “Going into job interviews, filling out applications, or stepping into a new classroom. It’s not worrying about a particular day if something is going to happen to me. It’s more of the rest my life.”

Islamophobia has followed Bavi throughout his education.

“Whether it’s in elementary school where you’re always playing the bad guy or high school where they call me terrorist or saying that they killed my uncle died when they killed Bin Laden,” Bavi said.

Similarly, Siddique said that a black football player at her high school was terrorized by his white teammates.

She said the football players “locked him in his locker and said, ‘go back to your country, monkey, Trump is President now,’ and it was posted on social media.”

Politicians and everyday citizens who create and support protests, Muslim bans and threats of DACA removals are letting out a buildup of angst and hate toward American minorities who have done nothing to hurt them.

While we remember the people who lost their lives by the hands of extremists, in the name of a religion that literally translates to ‘peace,’ let us also stand in solidarity with the many Muslims who had nothing to with this singular attack but who have paid everything.

Opinion Editor Dana Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected].   

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