I woke up to the news of one of the twin towers being hit by an airplane. I watched momentarily in shock but still had to get ready for work. I was working in the contracting office at Beale Air Force Base. I went into work and everyone was talking about what happened. A television was brought into the conference room and the entire staff gathered to view the news. Some silently sobbed as we all watched in horror people jumping to their deaths.
As the towers collapsed I recall a sick feeling in my stomach. Who could do such a thing? Shortly after the attack Bush made a statement claiming this was an act of terror from Muslim extremist. Immediately I knew this would be an issue because as it stood many Americans weren’t good at making a clear distinction between Muslim and “Muslim extremist”. In their eyes we were all the same and on that day my personal experience with that ignorance heightened.
After the news that The Pentagon had also been struck, co-workers began to make calls and send emails to check on their family and friends who worked and in lived in that area. I too made a call to my mother, a Military spouse who was traveling that day. As we talked a Master Sergeant who worked in the contracting office happened to walk pass me. When I got off the phone he insinuated I shouldn’t talk about what happened to outsiders. Meanwhile, the entire office was making calls and discussing the attacks with “outsiders”. It was clear what he was thinking.
As a Muslim I wasn’t allowed to mourn or feel sad and scared about what happened. I realized I had to be on the defense and constantly defend my every move.
After the attacks I was constantly subjected to random checks on the base. At one point I was I.d checked by a civilian while entering the bowling alley to pick up lunch. I complied only because I assumed I wasn’t being singled out but as I entered the facility I noticed the individual who asked for my I.d was standing behind me in line to order food. This person wasn’t even authorized to check my I.d! I guess he wanted to be a hero.
Leaving and returning the base was even more of a hassle. It seemed as though every time I would return to the base I was being asked to pull over for a “random check”. I always complied until one day the checks became a nuisance and I, in return, became irate. Looking back I realize it wasn’t such a great idea to run my mouth with MPs (Military Police) surrounding my vehicle with m16s but I’d had enough. I asked why the “random checks” aren’t so random. I also let it be known that nothing is ever found so leave me alone. Of course they had already begun searching the entire vehicle as I stood on the side of the road.
When they finished searching my vehicle and started to walk towards the gate post, one of the MPs, an African American woman, approached me and apologized. Being that it was so long ago I don’t remember her exact words but I do remember the apology. I wasn’t so upset after that and just took her apology to mean they were all just following orders. Still, I didn’t appreciate being stopped so often. After all, I too was a military dependent. As far as I knew, military dependents weren’t responsible for the attacks. My religion obviously caused the constant profiling. One thing I am certain of is that after Timothy McVeigh attacked government buildings in Oklahoma, caucasian Christians were not profiled; not on Military bases or elsewhere.
Indeed September 11th was a horrific event. Many lost their lives that day including Muslims. It was quite irresponsible for Bush to make statements about the attacks without clarifying that Muslims are not connected with extremists. He, along with the media, played off of the ignorance of the audience knowing full well many are too lazy to look beyond what is presented to them on the news. I recall several days after the attacks Bush released a statement that included “…These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that…”. After hearing this I couldn’t help but think what a difference this statement would have made the day of the attacks. Many Muslims (not to mention those who LOOK Muslim) were victims of hate crimes in the days following September 11th. Years later, these hate crimes have not been on the decline. In fact, Islamophobia has risen significantly. It’s quite sickening that an entire religion is being blamed for the actions of a few.
As a Muslim a Muslim American I can not just teach my children about September 11th without also informing them that many believe our faith is to blame and some may try to hurt them because of it. I must teach them to be cautious because everyone is not tolerant of our religious beliefs and unfortunately September 11th gave many Americans a license to hate.