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Candlelight Vigil Brings Awareness to Discrimination After 9/11

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Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, several American communities are still feeling the backlash.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaida launched a series of attacks on the United States that killed 2,996 people and affected countless others. Following the attacks, members of the South Asian-American, Muslim-American, Sikh-American and Arab-American communities faced discriminatory backlash based on perceptions of similarity to the group of individuals responsible for the attacks.

Several student organizations, including the Asian American Student Union, Arab Students Association, Islam on Campus and Sikh Students Association, came together for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the attacks, the lives that were lost and the consequences for those who survived.

Community members take part in a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Sept. 11.
Community members take part in a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Sept. 11.” credit=”Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

These student groups wanted to show their side of the story.

Sohaib Ahmad, president of Islam on Campus, remembers the jokes he endured from other students in third grade. Following Sept. 11, they called Ahmad “Osama’s son.” He said he began making fun of himself before anyone else could have the chance.

“I was ashamed of being Muslim,” Ahmad said.

Sameer Saboungi, president of the Arab Students Association, also has memories of feeling self-conscious and afraid.

“They told us not to speak Arabic, not to attract attention or draw attention to us,” Saboungi said of his parents and grandparents.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, anti-Islamic hate crimes increased by over 400 percent, from 28 instances in 2000 to 149 instances in 2012. Muslim and Arab are often confused and wrongly interchanged descriptions. Islam is a religion; Muslims follow the Islamic religion. Arabs are those from an Arabic-speaking country, most of which are in northern Africa and western Asia. Some Muslims are Arab; some Arabs are Muslim. Some are just one or the other.

Ahmad said he still gets looks of distrust that make him feel like an outsider.

“I go through hurt. I go through anger. I go through love and acceptance,” he said. “I am human too, just like they are.”

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