Every year on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took their toll on thousands of victims two decades ago, many media outlets remind their audiences of their deadly consequences only, a thing which may ignite the fire of hate and racism indiscriminately against all those who believe in the same religion or belong to the same race of the perpetrators. However, after two decades, we may need to shed light on what might have shined through these 20 years.
What has happened throughout these decades proves that adversity may be the fuel of greatness. An Associated Press investigation revealed that New York City Police Department kept Muslim communities under constant surveillance under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s leadership, based on a broad set of alleged “key indicators” of violence, including country of origin, enrollment in religious school, mosque attendance, and even hanging out in ethnic coffee shops and restaurants. Even children, born after 2001, were thrust into a conflict that they have nothing to do with. They were subjected to overwhelming harassment and stigmatized as “terrorists.”
What has been astonishing is that such suffering could become a turning point for many Muslims around the United States. It was a push factor for them to be more organized, engaged and better educated. Some Muslims chose to dispel any misconceptions about their religion through their personal connections and share counter narratives on the ground. For instance, Ahmed Ali Akbar, 33, turned his focus toward telling stories about Muslim Americans on his podcast “See Something Say Something”. He says, “There’s a lot of humor in the Muslim American experience as well. It’s not all just sadness and reaction to the violence and…racism and Islamophobia”. Not only that, but also most Muslims in different walks of life exert their best effort to serve their communities and societies regardless of their religion, race, color or background.
All such constant efforts and more others yielded a glimmer of hope, achieving great results. Many Muslims assume more vital posts than ever before. Zahid Quraishi has become the first Muslim federal judge in the United of States. Shahana Hanif, 30 years old, is poised to become the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council. These steps are just glimpses of hope for more real peaceful coexistence and engagement, serving to establish peace on the ground everywhere.