I was born and raised in Springfield, IL and categorize myself as an American Muslim; always have, always will. Some, however, forget I have the same basic rights, memories and needs as every American. We have all experienced the aftermath of 9/11, but as an American Muslim living in a post 9/11 world, my experiences have differed greatly.
When I came home that day, our TV’s volume was raised to the highest, but my family’s quietness overtook Tom Brokaw’s solemn voice. When my sister told me two planes flew straight into buildings, my first reaction was to say she was lying. Who could – would – do such a thing? As the night neared, I knew this was not over, and our lives would be changed forever.
Growing up in a city where there are a minimum of 100 Muslim families, I often found myself being either the representative of my faith or the stereotype. When questions arose, I informed my peers of my faith, Islam, whenever possible. Yet as I struggled to understand long division, my 3rd grade teacher found ways to take me to the principal’s office for unknown reasons. While I was judged to be foreign outside of my home, I also came home with ideas that didn’t mesh with my religion or my parents’ culture. I was told not to date or get too close with boys while my friends were receiving love notes in their lockers and already planning their senior prom.
My first trip to California was meant to be a blast. When my mother, sister and I approached security, we abruptly encountered the rudeness of TSA. My mother wore a head scarf, and it was evident the security personal were targeting her. No matter how much I argued and no matter how much they threatened to make us go home, in the end they had to “follow procedures.” I hated staying back and watching my mother being patted down.
Nevertheless, I grew to learn I could be both, American and Muslim, and my resolve, faith and American identity strengthened. I stayed away from parties and focused on school and my civic duty to volunteer. As I got older, I understood not everyone were as rude as the handful of people my family and I encountered. In the end, we are Americans, and while some of my experiences living in a post 9/11 were not exceptional, I hope everyone can see we are all the same. As President Kennedy said, “In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves and our country.”