The HyperTexts

Fardin Mohammadi: "I felt like a terrorist"

September 11, 2010

Friday morning was Eid-ul-Fitr, and I felt like a terrorist. I walked into the Al-Farouq Masjid in Atlanta with a sports bag filled with clothes and a backpack full of books and a laptop. My eyes were red and my body was weak from a lack of sleep. I was the only one not dressed up in traditional clothes or a shirt and tie. I was the only one with luggage. No one stared at me; no one asked me why I had extra bags; no one seemed to notice. But internally I felt like I was committing a crime by taking bags that could be filled with explosives into a crowded area, such as a masjid. I wasn't proud of feeling like a terrorist. I felt low and ashamed for even imagining something like that in the house of God and in the presence of my fellow Muslim Americans. Yet I prayed. I boarded a Greyhound bus that was heading back to Nashville that afternoon. Once again I felt like a terrorist. Everyone had luggage, but no one had a beard and no one else was Muslim or looked like a Muslim. I felt ashamed again. I am not a terrorist, but at least once a day I involuntarily feel like I’m committing a crime by being Muslim. Not many people treat me differently here. Not in Atlanta. I am (for the most part) treated like every other American college student, but my fellow Muslims aren't always extended that right.

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, equipment used to build a proposed masjid and community center was burned amid an atmosphere of protest against the masjid and even Islam as a religion. In Lower Manhattan a proposed Islamic community center open to all people is being harassed and sparking much debate about what it means to be American and to have unalienable rights. Some Americans say Muslims have the right to build the mosque, but they shouldn't. They don't understand that that building, a former clothing store, was already offering prayer services and is raising money to expand to allow room for more Muslims. Essentially, the "ground zero mosque" was an operating masjid before they decided to fundraise to turn it into a community center. The 2,000+ Americans killed in the terrorist attacks affected all Americans regardless of religion; thus religion should not be an issue regarding whether or not a place of worship and a community center should be built nearly three blocks away from the memorial site. Recently, a Muslim cab driver in New York was almost killed after he answered yes to the question "Are you Muzlim?" A drunk college student slashed his neck and arms. The mispronunciation of Muslim as “Muzlim” sounds degrading to many of us.

The terrorists of the attacks on New York City are accomplishing their goal even nine years later. They are instilling fear into the hearts of Americans still and causing the United States to divide. They instilled fear into our hearts (islamaphobia) and this fear led to ignorance and hate. The only way to battle this ignorance and hate is with understanding and love. You can't put out a fire by adding more fire. You can't stop the burning of a Quran by a terrorist group by burning Bibles and American flags. Most Muslims in other countries are angered at all Americans for the actions of this one group of American terrorists. Most Americans are angered at Muslims for the actions of one group of Muslim terrorists. We can't let the actions of a few ruin the image of a world of people in our eyes. This world is small. Jews, Christian, Muslims, and people of other faiths will ALWAYS be neighbors. We will always be neighbors in this small world. Love thy neighbor rings true for all the people of the Abrahamic religions. In America we will always be neighbors. Loving and attempting to understand one another will unite us against all evil and stop the spread of terrorism from all sides. The deaths and fears in America and the Middle East will become minimal and will be replaced with societal progression and learning. Read a Quran instead of burning one. Attend a prayer service instead of protesting it. Help build a masjid so we can help build churches. Help your neighbors so they will help you.

I felt like a terrorist because those terrorists of 9/11 affected me as well. In the fifth grade (2002) I was beaten by a group of middle school boys who knew I was Muslim. I’ve been shunned by Persians in Iran because I have a foreign accent and am American. I've been searched and questioned and delayed at every airport: in American airports because I was born in Iran; in Iranian airports because I’m a Kurdish American citizen. Hearing about the struggles of Muslims here in America and their deaths abroad stirs anger in me: not towards Americans because I am American, not towards Muslims for I am Muslim, but toward ignorance and hate.

As much as I hate letting other peoples' attitudes affect my own, I feel like a terrorist and will until ignorance has been replaced with understanding.

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