Growing up in rural Jefferson County, Hanan Rahman said she often felt like the only Muslim in her neighborhood.
“They would ask, what is that thing on your head?” said Rahman, recalling her classmates’ hesitation to ask her about the hijab she was wearing.
Now a junior international human rights and legal studies double major at Webster University, her religion isn’t as much of a mystery to her classmates. But due to media sensationalism of the Islamic jihad and growing Islam-aphobia in America since the attacks September 11, 2001, all Americnas, but especially Muslim Americans have seen their lives had changed since that day. Rahman said that although she has often had to explain herself to others, she was not the target of any prejudice after the 9/11 attacks.
Friday prayer at the Mosque
Rahman atttends Daar-Ul-Islam, a mosque in Ballwin. The building consists of a cafeteria, classrooms, and a library as well as the prayer hall. After encouraging me to see the washroom where men wash their feet before the service, Rahman left to join the women upstairs. Rahman said men and women are kept separate during the prayer to avoid distraction and keep their thoughts pure.
When the hour-long service had ended, Muslims Aftab Ahmed, Faizan Syed, and Zubaida Ibrahim and Rahman met in the library to discuss their memories of 9/11 and the changes they had seen. A comprehensive edit of their interviews can be seen in the video above.
Post- 9/11 Islamaphobia
Syed, the executive director of the Saint Louis Council of Islamic Relations (CAIR- Saint Louis) was only in eighth-grade and recalled the storm of questions he faced after September 2001 attacks.
“Immediately our generation, especially the younger generation (of Muslims), were put in a position where they had to be that source of information for the people,” Syed said.
Ibrahim spoke for the group when said she looked to the Qur’an for leadership in those challenging times. Each of them personally emphasized that only deviant Muslims could have carried out the attacks, since they violated the teachings of Islam.
Unlike Syed and Rahman, Ahmed and Ibrahim were both adults in 2001. Ibrahim, out of town in Boston on the 11th, remembered the airport being “completely different” on her trip home. On another trip she was held in a room by airport security with another Muslim couple until her scheduled flight has left. She has been the subject of random searches nearly every time she has flown since 9/11. Ahmed was the target of prejudice in the workplace and saw some of his professional relationships change after the 11th.
To promote education and community service, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Syed is gathering together Muslims and other believers in Saint Louis for an inter-faith rally under the Arch as part of the city’s Day of Service and Remembrance Project. He hopes the event will show solidarity across religions with those who lost loved ones as a result of 9/11.
Follow this link to sign up to be a part of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance Project: http://www.stl.unitedway.org/getinvolved/volunteercenter/volunteer/sept11.aspx