Twelve Years Later, The Ramifications of 9/11 Run Deep for Muslims

By Kinza Khan

I have always been fascinated with the subjects of law, politics, history and sociology. The more I learn about history, the more I realize that Islam has played an important role in shaping American history. Many slaves were African-American Muslims and introduced America to Islam. Many jazz musicians in Chicago were Muslim and African-American as well, and their spiritual beliefs and moral values reflected in their music contributed to shaping Chicagoan and urban culture.

One of the political figures I admire most is Malcolm X, a revolutionary figure during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He used what he learned about Islam during his pilgrimage to Hajj to form new opinions about racial equality and propose those values to the American people. After his trip, he observed and stated:

“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.”

I always noticed a lot of overlap between American values and Islamic values: The concepts of equality, justice, peace and civic duty. This is why I was surprised when the image of Islam was shattered in the media after 9/11 – made to look like a violent, hateful religion. Growing up with Islamic teachings, these messages from the media were as shocking to me as they were to someone who had never heard of Islam before.

In reaction to this attempt at spreading Islamophobia, Muslim leaders condemned any acts of violence that were carried out “in the name of Islam,” and Muslim activists responded by educating the public about what Islam really teaches. While more and more people developed a hateful attitude towards Islam, many were also learning to appreciate the religion and even convert.

In a way, this was part of the good that came from the terrible awfulness of 9/11: Raising awareness of Muslims in America, the struggle for civil rights and dispelling misconceptions about Islam. If a person previously unfamiliar with Islam gained the correct knowledge about Islam, then naturally they would not hate the religion or associate its beliefs with violence or terrorism. It was the perpetuation of incorrect information about this religion that led to the culture of Islamophobia.

The struggle has changed through the years following 9/11. Immediately following 9/11, for Muslims the struggle was to inform people about the religion of Islam and its relevance in American history. Then, it transitioned into condemning terrorist acts and disassociating the religion of Islam from violence and hatred. Now, the struggle continues as Muslims must reverse the effects of negative information propagated through Islamophobes.

Looking at 9/11 and its effects 12 years later from the lens of law, politics, history, and sociology, I must conclude that the terrorists of 9/11 not only hijacked our beloved country, but they also hijacked our peaceful religion and Muslims’ place in America in a way that affects us greatly still today. Now, we must work together to reform our country as well as the societal attitude towards Islam. The question is how do we do that and how do we know what that looks like?

I have noticed three different attitudes towards Muslims in the U.S. The first is the extreme case of Islamophobia: the hatred, death stares, vulgar looks and hate speech. But I like to think that this is only a minority view, at least it seems that way in Chicago. The second attitude is the other extreme: the overly sympathetic view of those who feel bad for Muslims in America and express pity. I am not sure how that is anything short of making Muslims feel like second-class citizens. But nonetheless, it is appreciated because we know that the intentions are pure and good.

Once my friend in law school told me that she forgets I wear hijab because when she sees me she does not notice the hijab. That is the third, most moderate attitude and the one most welcome by Muslims. The one that sounds something like “You’re Muslim, so what? No big deal.”

It’s the kind of attitude that perceives us Muslims as ordinary humans – that realizes that some of us are activists and revolutionaries and Malcolm-X-wannabes, others are citizens just trying to get by, and some of may be screw-ups. And that our actions, especially the ill-intentioned, are not necessarily representative of our religion’s teachings, but representative of the diversity of Americans and of humans.

When the third attitude becomes more common is when we will have achieved a reformed societal attitude towards American Muslims, and that is when the terrorists of 9/11 will lose its battle to hijack my religion.

Kinza Khan is a J.D. candidate at DePaul University College of Law with a focus in international human rights and civil rights. Her work has been published in academic journals and local newspapers. She can be followed on Twitter @KinzaK89.

  • Nemo

    Prior to 9/11, I was only barely aware that such a religion as Islam existed. The fact that I was a fifth grader from a very small town might have had something to do with it. When I did learn about Islam, even though my teachers were quite progressive, I couldn’t help but think of 9/11. Now I know that thinking of the Middle East and Islam at the same time is pointless as less than 1/5 of Muslims live there. I’ve also met a few Muslims in college. I was never close friends with them, but I’ve never really been close with anybody, so make of that what you will. One of my instructors was a Muslim from Jordan, and even though she wasn’t American, I could tell that she was aware of certain stigmas she might encounter. Those never came up in our class, since most of the students were education majors. Many of us were interested in learning about Jordan. I’ve always known that holding stereotypes is wrong, but I was far less likely to be tempted by them after knowing some Muslims in college than before.

    • JoFro

      If you wish to learn more about Islam, read the Quran and then read the biography of the Islamic prophet. Read about the concept of taqqiya and read about the history of Islamic jihad warfare by Muslims from the 7th century until to this very day! Read about the way minorities are treated in Islamic countries, from the so-called moderate Islamic countries like Morocco to the more batshit-insane Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia! If you wish to know more about a religion, observe the people who practise it in their natural setting, not when they’re abroad in college where they are acting as their faith’s ambassadors to the American kuffars!

      • Nemo

        Fine. Don’t just talk about Islam being a threat though. If you think Islam is worse than the Nazis, do something to them that we did to the Nazis. Talk is cheap.

        • JoFro

          Unlike Nazism, an ideology that could not even survive 50 years, Islam has a 1400 yr lifespan that continues to live on. Right now, talk is the most that one can do and even that can cause you to lose your head against Islamists bent on silencing anyone who dares criticise the religion!

          • Nemo

            Then what do you think we should collectively do about it? If I thought someone was a threat to me, I wouldn’t talk. I would take preemptive action against them, all of them, wherever they live, so they could never do anything again. Whatever is necessary for the greater good must be done. Do you agree, or not? Is Islam worthy of this or not?

          • JoFro

            *sigh* I agree! But what will you have people do? If the Christians fight back, the media will report it as Christian aggression! Even the Buddhists of Myanmar fighting back against the Muslims is reported as Buddhist aggression despite the fact that for years they’ve had to deal with Islamic aggression against them!

            Then there are the Christian peaceniks who will not even go and defend their fellow Christians being persecuted but will make excuses for Muslim aggression while simultaneously condemning the Christians for resisting Islamic slaughter!
            Collectively, I wish the MSM and the Christians start going about protecting their fellow Christians from slaughter but when you have people in top positions doing everything they can to badmouth the Christians, it just gets a bit too hard!

  • KnownNick

    Dear author, the nice picture you are drawing of Islam is valid only for minorities in Islam. Most Islamic religious authorities pray different things. So, Islam needs reform to come back to its very own roots. As well as Christianity was able to get rid off witchcraft trials and cruisades, Islam has to get rid off certain teachings which are widespread among Islamic teachers, but which are wrong, simply wrong. For example, that men have to rule over women, that believers have more rights than non-believers, the abrogation of certain peaceful passages of the Quran, etc. etc. See e.g. Thank you!

  • J N

    This words are very funny, in any country in world, islam has done one thing is destruction, any country muslims immigrate, they bring only hate n crime , not less than 50% contents in any islamic texts are based on hate n crime. there is now way to think muslims will contribute to any nation they immigrate. they dont follow local laws, rather they follow only islamic sharia laws, which is against any country laws, Islam cant obey or adjust to any other religion or national laws,, rather its threat to such societies.
    Expulsion of muslims is only solution to bring peace n stability for any other countries.

    • ThisIsTheEnd

      You complain about hate and crime but then offer a solution that is hateful.

      • J N

        you are funny, if there is disease in you,, will you think of curing it or will you be silent in sake of some bacteria/virus will die.. if you feel usage of medicines to kill cause of disease ,, then do you consider it as hate ?
        Islam is like cancer to world,, it have to be removed if not, entire world future will be in jeopardy.

        • ThisIsTheEnd

          Again you’re making my point. You think of people as being diseases which needs to be eradicated. You display the characteristics of a fascist mind.

          • J N

            Some ppl can understand by time,, some never.
            Qur’an is a book that teaches hate. Does it? Let’s see:
            2:65 Allah transforms disobedient Jews into apes.
            2:89 Unbelievers, particularly Jews, are accursed.
            2:191-193 Fight and kill unbelievers until “religion is Allah’s,” i.e. Islamic law rules all societies.
            3:28 Don’t take unbelievers as friends and allies, unless it is for “fear of them,” i.e. deceptively for protection of oneself or of Islam.
            3:110-112 Muslims are the best of people, Jews have earned Allah’s anger.

            ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, goes ooooon,, these are texts muslims study n follows every day from Quran,, if you dont know about islam,, then learn,, if not, shut your mouth n be quite,, dont try to show your nonsense.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            So you’re concerned about anti-semitism and the treatment of Jews. Yet you use the language of extermination against Muslims similar to how the Nazis demonized Jews. What little reasoning you display is all over the place.

  • UWIR

    What a bunch of nonsense.

    First, there’s a picture of a poster saying “It Is NOT OK To Bash Muslims”. What does “bash” mean? It’s just a pejorative term for criticism. So, it’s not OK to disagree with Islam? Seriously?

    “Muslim leaders condemned any acts of violence that were carried out “in the name of Islam,”

    Puh-leese. This is revisionist history. Yeah, I’m sure that there were multiple leaders who condemned violence, but it wasn’t even close to a consensus of Muslim leaders. The widespread position of Muslims is support of violence. There isn’t a single Muslim-majority country in the world in which criticizing Islam is legal.

    “If a person previously unfamiliar with Islam gained the correct knowledge about Islam, then naturally they would not hate the religion or associate its beliefs with violence or terrorism.”

    Just how does learning about Islam’s misogyny, homophobia, pedophilia, suppression of dissent, etc., cause a person to not hate it?

    Here’s a fourth attitude you don’t bother including: the realization that Islam is deeply opposed to freedom, equality, and justice, and opposing it, not through hate speech, but through reasoned, reality-based arguments. Or do you consider any criticism of Islam to be “hate speech”?

    • JoFro

      As for Muslim leaders condemning violence, the top head of the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia a few months ago called for the destruction of all churches in the Middle East. Can you imagine what would be the reaction of Muslims had the Pope said something similar?

  • J.R. Speedly

    “I always noticed a lot of overlap between American values and Islamic values: The concepts of equality, justice, peace and civic duty.”

    So forcing non-Muslims to pay the jizya, affording less attention to a non-Muslim’s testimony in a sharia court, and the wide-scale enslavement of non-Muslims throughout Islamic history are examples of equality, justice and civic duty?

    As someone getting a doctorate in Middle East history, I can say that this politically correct claptrap will surely get you applause from diversity coalitions across American and those perky folks in university bureaucracy, but it is completely distorted history.

    Let’s do a role reversal. Would you like Muslims in America to be forced to pay a tax purely for being Muslim, have their property under threat of confiscation at any time, be threatened with death if they converted to Christianity but decided to convert back to Islam, and be accused by the president of being sons of apes and pigs? If not, then I do not think you can say much about the “tolerance” that Christians and Jews have faced under Muslim states for centuries.

  • J_Bob

    Look at the persecutions of non-Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia.

    By their works, not words, shall you know them.

    • Dirk

      Not to mention the persecution of fellow Muslims such as Shias and Ahmadis.