For Muslims across northern Texas, 9/11 set off a wave of Islamophobia that has endured to this day

 

Hojun Choi, The Dallas Morning News  9 hrs ago


DALLAS — Nearly 20 years ago, as he lay on what he feared would be his deathbed, Rais Bhuiyan bargained with God for his life

.Rais Bhuiyan et al. posing for the camera: Plano resident Khalid Ishaq, Irving resident Nadeem Ahktar and Rais Bhuiyan on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, in Irving, Texas. Ahktar is the brother-in-law of Waqar Hasan, who was killed on September 15, 2001 by Mark Stroman, a white supremacist who went on an Islamophobic shooting spree following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Bhuiyan was targeted by Stroman...© Elias Valverde II/10055441A/TNS Plano resident Khalid Ishaq, Irving resident Nadeem Ahktar and Rais Bhuiyan on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, in Irving, Texas. Ahktar is the brother-in-law of Waqar Hasan, who was killed on September 15, 2001 by Mark Stroman, a white supremacist who went on an Islamophobic shooting spree following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Bhuiyan was targeted by Stroman…

Moments earlier, he had been shot in the face with a shotgun by Mark Stroman, a white supremacist who in the days after 9/11 targeted people he assumed were Muslim in an Islamophobia-fueled shooting spree in Dallas and Mesquite.

“I promised God, ‘If you give me a chance to live, I will do good things in my life. I will dedicate my life to the needy, poor and deprived,’” recalled Bhuiyan, an American of Bangladeshi descent.

Bhuiyan survived, but Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant, and Vasudev Patel, an Indian American who was not a Muslim, were slain.

For Bhuiyan and other Muslims, including the tens of thousands who live in North Texas, the Sept. 11 attacks stirred a crescendo of Islamophobia that for the next two decades challenged their beliefs about what it means to be American.Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi is using his cell phone: Yasir Qadhi, 46, resident scholar at the East Plano Islamic Center, talks about the Islam Friday afternoon prayer on August 27, 2021.© Lola Gomez/10055440A/TNS Yasir Qadhi, 46, resident scholar at the East Plano Islamic Center, talks about the Islam Friday afternoon prayer on August 27, 2021.

“I was in total shock. I couldn’t believe that something had happened to me in my dream country,” Bhuiyan said. “America was a dream country to me.”https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533

Faizan Syed, executive director of the D-FW chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the advocacy organization saw a sharp rise in Islamophobia immediately after 9/11. But anti-Muslim sentiments receded to pre-9/11 levels about a year after the attacks, he said.

Then, around 2007 and 2008, “we started seeing a dramatic increase in Islamophobia that has lasted to this day,” Syed said. “The reason is that Islamophobia became politicized.”

Conspiracy theories about the birthplace and religion of former President Barack Obama contributed to a second post-9/11 surge of anti-Muslim sentiment, Syed said. The second wave of Islamophobia led to controversy around plans to build a mosque near the former World Trade Center site, and a push in multiple states to pass “anti-Sharia” laws.

In line with Syed’s perspective, the total number of Islamophobic assaults, murders and non-negligent manslaughters spiked from 12 cases in 2000 to 93 in 2001, according to FBI hate crime data.a person sitting on a couch: A group of Muslim women gather on the second floor of the mosque to celebrate Friday afternoon prayer and lecture at the East Plano Islamic Center on August 27, 2021.© Lola Gomez/10055440A/TNS A group of Muslim women gather on the second floor of the mosque to celebrate Friday afternoon prayer and lecture at the East Plano Islamic Center on August 27, 2021.

That number dropped significantly in the years immediately following 2001, but started trending upward after 2008 before peaking in 2016 with a post-9/11 high of 127.a group of people standing in front of a crowd: A group of Muslim men gather at the mosque main prayer hall to celebrate Friday afternoon prayer and lecture at the East Plano Islamic Center on August 27, 2021.© Lola Gomez/10055440A/TNS A group of Muslim men gather at the mosque main prayer hall to celebrate Friday afternoon prayer and lecture at the East Plano Islamic Center on August 27, 2021.

Voices behind the numbers

Behind all the statistics, however, are the stories of Americans who, despite having nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and those involved, faced civil rights violations, microaggressions at work and school, and social pressures to hide their faith. Some left the U.S. altogether.

Razan Bayan, 19, is a Southern Methodist University sophomore who was born after 9/11. One of her earliest memories, she said, is of her parents sitting her down to tell her about the terrorist attacks.

“They told me that some years ago, there were these really bad people who planned an attack, and because they were Muslim, that a lot of people blame us for it now, and that’s just the state of the world,” Bayan said.

As a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, Bayan said, she has often been asked misguided and even blatantly offensive questions about her religion. But comments from people trying take a moral high ground — remarks, for instance, that Islam is a sexist religion that forces women to hide their bodies — undermine the personal decisions of women who embrace the teachings of the faith, she said.a group of people wearing costumes: A group of Muslim women gather on the second floor of the mosque to celebrate Friday afternoon prayer and lecture at the East Plano Islamic Center on August 27, 2021.© Lola Gomez/10055440A/TNS A group of Muslim women gather on the second floor of the mosque to celebrate Friday afternoon prayer and lecture at the East Plano Islamic Center on August 27, 2021.

With increased coverage of Afghanistan because of the U.S. military’s abrupt evacuation from that country last month, Bayan said she worries that people will again falsely equate all of Islam with the actions of the Taliban.

“I would not be a Muslim if I thought Islam was a hindrance against women’s rights. I think for myself,” she said. “I think Islam, its teachings and its doctrine is more respectful towards women than any religion or culture, and that is one of the reason why I am Muslim.”

A catalyst for activism

Yasir Qadhi is resident scholar of the East Plano Islamic Center, one the largest mosques in North Texas. Qadhi was pursuing a master’s in Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia when he saw the Twin Towers fall. He said the event gave him a renewed longing to return to the U.S.

“Pre-9/11, I was really discovering myself, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live my life. But post-9/11, I really felt that this is my land, and that I needed to come back here,” Qadhi said. “I felt like my land was misunderstanding my faith, and I love my faith.”

Qadhi said that although he knows of Muslims who hid their faith for fear of being singled out in the 20 years after 9/11, he also saw many double down on their love of Islam. Anti-Muslim sentiments also spurred political activism in the community, he said.

“Many of us realized that this is my land and this is my faith, (and) we’re going to have to explain to the rest of our countrymen that this is the reality of our faith,” he said. “So a lot of people became politically active. It was a catalyst for activism in the Muslim community.”

Muslims were not the only victims

Muslims were not the only victims of post-9/11 Islamophobia. The hate against the community also plagued others, such as Sikhs and other non-Muslims of South Asian descent, who were targeted solely for their appearance.

Harbhajan Singh, 65, director of the Gurdwara Nishkam Seva religious and community center in Irving, said Sikhs around the country were harassed and assaulted because of their religious practice of having beards and wearing turbans.

Singh said he remembers how fears in the Sikh community were amplified after the Islamophobia-driven murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi on Sept. 15, 2001, in Mesa, Ariz. He said many Sikhs were accosted with the same racial slurs and public harassment faced by Muslims.

But rather than reject or distance themselves from the Muslim community, Singh said, many Sikhs, including those in Dallas-Fort Worth, chose to show solidarity.

“We made connections to show them that we support them in their time of need. The Muslim community is as affected by these extremists as perhaps other communities are,” he said. “We felt that the Muslim community was being wrongfully, collectively aligned with these extreme views and they need the support of other people to come around to fight against those types of sentiments together.”

Bhuiyan, the Stroman shooting victim, said he believes people who embraced anti-Muslim hate, including the man who tried to kill him, were also victims of Islamophobia.

He, along with Irving resident Nadeem Akhtar, the brother-in-law of fellow shooting victim Waqar Hasan, campaigned to save Stroman’s life before he was put to death by injection in 2011. Bhuiyan is now the president and founder of a nonprofit called World Without Hate, which aims to use storytelling to promote peace around the world.

“I saw my attacker as a human being, not just as a killer, and I saw him as a victim too,” said Bhuiyan, who splits his time between Dallas and Seattle. “I realized that hate and revenge may bring temporary satisfaction, but it does not bring solutions to any situation; it only brings more disaster.”

Akhtar, who is of Pakistani descent, said he is concerned that recent events in Afghanistan could trigger another wave of Islamophobia like the one that took the life of his sister’s husband. But he hopes that his willingness to forgive people like Stroman can inspire other Americans to come together in the face of anti-Muslim sentiment.

“There is a verse that some who misrepresent Islam quote that reads, ‘Life for life, eye for eye,’” Akhtar said. “But right after that verse, the Quran states: ‘But if anyone forgives the revenge by way of charity, it is an act of peace for himself.’”

source https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/for-muslims-across-northern-texas-911-set-off-a-wave-of-islamophobia-that-has-endured-to-this-day/ar-AAOeOA5?ocid=BingNewsSearch

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