By Aliya Husain
No doubt September 11 changed the attitudes and lives of most Americans, but for me—and many like me—it was a change unlike that of the common American. On September 11, 2001, I learned what it means to feel truly sick to my stomach. My insides felt as if they were being wrung dry and the acids in my belly were ready to spill over and out of my mouth. I can pinpoint when that gut-wrenching sensation occurred within me; it was exactly when I realized the first tower fell.
As my nausea began to overwhelm me, I felt an intense throbbing in my heart and the sensation of brain combustion at the next thought that crept into my head. “Please, God, please,” I thought. “Let this not be an act brought on by Muslims.”
Why, you wonder, did I think that, of all things, at that moment of indelible historical significance? Because I am an American Muslim—one whose life has changed since 9/11/01.
Since that day, I am no longer considered all the things I always was and, in my heart, always will be. The majority of Americans no longer see me for who I truly am. I can no longer be seen as patriotic, or trustworthy, or even normal. My actions and intentions are scrutinized and questioned. My modest dress is now a statement of defiance against America or a symbol of suppression when, in fact, it is neither. It’s the same me I have always been.
I can no longer attend an Independence Day parade without being the target of vile stares and snide remarks, when all I want to do is celebrate the birthday of my homeland. It’s the same me I have always been.
I can’t go shopping with my daughter at the local mall without having at least one person shake their head in disgust upon seeing us . . .but it’s the same me I have always been.
I feel the pain and anger that most do about what took place on 9/11, in fact maybe more than most. After all, I was born in NY—and those two towers were representative of my native land. The symbols of my birthplace no longer exist. The thousands of people who lost their lives that day were my people. They were my fellow New Yorkers, my fellow Americans, and my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity.
I feel a deep connection to the intense loss of the people of NYC yet few can understand that. I feel not just anger towards the murderers of 9/11 but I also feel resentment. Not only did they kill so many innocent people, they have put me and thousands of other America Muslims in a hellish place where we are always fighting to prove ourselves and our love for our country. My children, who are third generation Americans, are going to be viewed through a different lens because of those heinous acts.
We, the American Muslims, are struggling. Struggling to live our lives in a normal manner in a most abnormal situation. Striving to be Americans, yet being viewed as un-American or, worse yet, anti-American. Yet, there is nothing further from the truth. It’s me—the same me I have always been—a proud American Muslim.
Aliya Husain is a writer and educator. She lives in Lisle with her husband and their three children. Her novel, "Neither This Nor That," of a young girl growing up American Muslim, is available through Amazon.com.