They’ll Blame Us: Growing Up Muslim After 9/11

Rafia Zakaria in The New York Times:

Zakaria-blog427-v2For the anniversary of 9/11 this year, CNN convened a special panel it titled “9/11 Kids to Terrorists: ‘You Lose.’ ” It featured 10 young men and women, all of whom had lost fathers on that fateful September day. Seated in a studio, they spoke poignantly of growing up with loss, of milestones punctuated by the absence of fathers. I remember watching the tribute and thinking of those who were not included, and its very literal assessment of casualties and those affected by it. Sept. 11, 2001, was also the day amid whose macabre details lay America’s introduction to Islam. The generation of Muslim American children who have grown up in its shadow are, in a different but just as pertinent sense, also 9/11 kids. Amani Al-Khatahtbeh’s memoir “Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age” is a chronicle of how these “other” children of 9/11 have been affected by America’s inveterate gluing together of “Muslim” and “terrorist.” It is an account that should both enlighten and shame Americans who read it.

Al-Khatahtbeh, who is also the founder of the media site “Muslim Girl,” was in fourth grade at the Bowne-Munro Elementary School in East Brunswick, N.J., that sunny September day. It was yearbook photo day, and she had dressed for it in “a stiff pair of jeans and a blue shirt.” The photographs never happened; instead there was early dismissal and the struggle to understand what her mother meant when she said the twin towers were “not there anymore” and that “two planes crashed into them.” At home, in front of the television, her father’s ominous words would make more sense: “This is a horrible thing that happened. . . . And they’re going to blame us. And it’s going to get much worse.”

He was right.

More here.