After the horrendous shock and mourning of the tragedy of 9/11, it took days before Muslims could go back to the facade of a “normal” schedule. It took faith and uncountable acts of kindness toward Muslims that reassured us that there would be no widespread backlash. Neighbors dropping off food and coloring books, games and videos to fearful Muslims’ homes, and phone calls of support from friends, co-workers, acquaintances, school administrators, teachers and government representatives helped restore a sense of the “new normal” for Muslims. We would not be held accountable for the actions of people who identified themselves by our faith but acted against it.Global events and locally escalating Islamophobia weigh heavily on our minds.
Today, local Muslims are working or attending school like everyone else. More Muslims volunteer in the community these days. Outreach efforts to educate the public about “what Islam is and is not” have been expanded.
But in the backs of our minds is a growing anxiety. Global events and locally escalating Islamophobia weigh heavily on our minds.
The average Muslim in America is more globally aware than the average American because of connections through family, friends and work in other countries. They are not only concerned with how many Americans died on 9/11 (2,996) and in America’s war on terror (6,026 per The Washington Post), but also with how many Muslims have been killed since 9/11 (in Iraq more than 100,000; in Afghanistan more than 9,000 dead, plus tens of thousands displaced and vulnerable to die of starvation and exposure; plus more in Palestine and Pakistan).
The myth of the cause of 9/11, often repeated by ill-informed U.S. and Oklahoma legislators, that “They (Arabs and Muslims) hate us (Americans) because of our democracy,” has now been resoundingly disproven by the rapid spread of the 2011 Arab Spring. The autocratic governments that the U.S. government and corporations had supported were felled by the self-empowered citizens.
Most Americans, including many lawmakers at the state level, believe organizations like Act! For America and its distortions. The Muslim world is fighting the same enemy as America: al-Qaida, which is responsible for more deaths of Muslims than of Westerners.
These organizations are part of a cottage industry of Islamophobes who visit and hate monger often in Oklahoma. They are making a fortune selling memberships and books to further misinform and terrorize our brainwashed neighbors, including some of our Oklahoma legislators.
While facing overzealous scrutiny by neighbors, the government and employers, Oklahoma Muslims continue to live the American dream, thankful we are here where Muslims can enjoy more freedoms than the countries many came from, where we can contribute our expertise, pay our taxes and vote, help our communities become safer and more prosperous, and watch our children’s children learn about America’s gifts and challenges.
Siddiqui is spokeswoman of the Islamic Council of Oklahoma.