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Opinion: 22 years later

9/11 still has long-lasting effects on Muslims
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Olivia Evans
9/11 is one of the most tragic events that has taken place in United States history — a day many looked death in the eyes. People’s lives were drastically changed, including mine.

September 11, 2001.

It was the day that two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was the day that thousands of innocent lives were lost. It was the day that altered many lives, including mine, and I hadn’t even stepped foot into the world yet.

9/11 is one of the most tragic events that has taken place in United States history — a day many looked death in the eyes. People’s lives were drastically changed, whether that was having to say goodbye to a loved one or needing to look for a new job. 

Since 9/11 was primarily documented on the news, the images of death and fear that were broadcast — people running for their lives, not knowing if they would be able to live another day — created trauma for those who watched. Almost 3,000 lives were lost in New York City, and the sense of community in the country became broken, quickly turning into anger over who was to blame: Muslims.

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People’s safety, security and freedom were shattered as they didn’t know when to expect another attack. They became more aware of their surroundings when they went into public areas — especially airplanes. Airports implemented stronger safety precautions to ensure something like this would never occur again. Family members of mine have been pulled aside when flying for “extra security screenings” because they wear hijabs and are seen as a threat. My cousin, who is a hijabi, was forced to take a bomb residue test when she was only 14 years old. 

The heavy hearts that Americans carried with them, full of grief and rage, started to change people’s views on Islam as a whole. Through social media and news outlets, people started to associate the term “terrorist” with Islam. Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the attack and of al-Qaeda, used his religion as an excuse to murder many and because of this, hate crimes against Muslims started to rise. 

Muslims, including my family, are blamed for the wrongdoing of Bin Laden’s actions. There were 152 hate crimes against Muslims in 2021 alone, and they have been on the rise since 2001. Muslims are seen as threats and treated as such.

From a very young age, I was exposed to this Islamophobia. When I lived in Arkansas, people used to graffiti mosques and make terrorist jokes about me, saying that I had bombs in my backpack, after finding out I was Muslim. There were times when kids my age weren’t allowed to be my friends because their parents would tell them I was not safe to be around or wasn’t a good person because of my religion. No 8-year-old should be told that they can’t have certain friends over something they can’t control. 

Even though it has been over two decades since the attack on 9/11, the effects are still prominent.  In 2017, “Muslim Travel Ban,” the ban on Muslim countries that were seen as “countries of concerns,” was created to ensure the protection of the nation from terrorist entry.

Although this was 16 years after 9/11, it shows the persistence of the government in making sure there was a limit on the number of Muslims allowed to come into the country. There is still a fear instilled in people about Islam. Islam is not a religion about hate and violence — it’s about peace and love. 

My friends and family are not people that commit violent actions. Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer who converted to Islam, was known as a peaceful person and was a civil activist. The Quran talks about finding peace spiritually and how problems should be solved peacefully. When we do Friday prayers in the mosque, the Imam talks about having patience and making sure that your actions don’t hurt someone but instead help them. 

My mom is one of my biggest inspirations; she is someone who helps refugees find homes and jobs and helps students in schools get supplies and lunches. She is someone who volunteers her time to make sandwiches for the homeless, regardless of their religion. These are the people who are getting the awful comments, the rude jokes – the Islamophobia. My religion doesn’t deserve to be treated the way it does.

What happened on 9/11 was a horrible tragedy and should be talked about. The people who conducted the strike were in the wrong and should face the consequences of their actions. However, I don’t agree with the way that Muslims are treated in society based on a small number of people’s actions. 

One man’s actions should not define an entire religion.

This story was originally published on The Hawk Eye on September 11, 2023.