On September 11th, I was 17 years old. I’d just started at boarding school in the middle of the Scottish wilds and was trying to make sense of new surroundings, new people, new rules, a new sense of norm. I wasn’t thinking about God or about prayer or about who believed in Who. I was just a not-so-normal kid trying to fit into not-so-normal circumstances.
Many of my American friends feel the need to defend their role as Muslims, defend Islam, and their choice to follow the word of Allah when this time of year rolls round. For many of them, living in the US in the post Twin Towers world, their lives were irrevocably changed and for many, it was the repercussions of 9.11 on their lives in the US which caused them to up sticks and move here. Unlike many of them, I wasn’t a Muslim when the Twin Towers came down, and on September 11th 2002, instead of suddenly feeling ostracised, I felt a community pull together as a result. In my boarding house, and the days after the school chapel, girls and boys, teachers and students all clung to each other as we individually tried to reconcile the events we’d witnessed on tv. Many of us were worried for loved ones not heard from, many had parents caught up in the political aftermath, and many were concerned of what the repercussions would be outside. Inside those school grounds, not one student or adult alike felt ostracised or victimized for their religious beliefs. Inside we were safe; Muslims ate next to Christians who prayed next to Jews, but outside it was impossible not to feel the shift and though we were cocooned to an extent, even in there inside our cocoon we couldn’t help but feel the changes that were triggered that day.
Whenever tragedy happens, there has to be blame. People affected need something to someone to vent at – we need there to be a reason for our pain. People somewhere to channel the hurt that they feel on the inside; need someone at whom to shout, “it’s not fair.” And the September 11th attack on American soil, the events of that day were anything but fair.
But it’s also not fair that so many repeatedly suffer repercussions from an event in which they played no part, it’s not fair that so many now live in fear, that communities have been split and more innocents have been hurt. The repercussions of 9.11 are just as tragic as the events themselves, in so very many ways.
In a few terrifying short hours the world went from a place where you could live and let live, to live with us; live like us. We fear the unknown. Where we should see beauty in diversity, we see fear, now, in difference. Through my friends accounts, I know how 9.11 changed the world for Muslims, but I see simply how the event changed the world.
May God give us the strength and opportunity to see it change again – for the better this time.