A Muslim or an American? Tough Questions for 11-Year-Old

Islam vs. America After 9/11: Overcoming Prejudice and Hatred

Yahoo Contributor Network

Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.

I am an American, born and raised. I lived in a suburb in North Carolina all my life, drank sweet tea, ate barbecue, Bojangles', you name it. My parents, though, are Turkish, and although they aren't the most devout Muslims, that is their culture and in part, mine. Turkey is a nation that is 99 percent Islamic. So after 9/11, when our nation collectively shunned Islam and the Middle East, I worried.

Was I supposed to be a Muslim or an American? I didn't support the terrorism attacks. They repulsed me and I wanted revenge. My America wouldn't stand for this. Still, I was supposed to be a Muslim. The two sides seemed mutually exclusive.

Ten years later, this country has proved not only that she does not tolerate terrorism, but bigotry either, and that makes me proud to be an American.

[Your story: How has September 11 changed you?]

I was 11 when the planes hit, napping in a social studies class. We were supposed to be reading a section, but there was a low chatter and the teacher was listening to the radio at his desk. All of a sudden, he told us to be quiet and turned the radio up loud. That was how we learned of it.

I remember classmates rushing to use the phone in the office to call siblings or traveling parents. A long time after, we sat and watched the news-the smoke billowing, the man with the home video and how he started shouting, screaming, running-nobody saying much. I doubt any of us fully understood what was going on. I didn't.

In the next few years I listened to a lot of hate spew from my friends' lips. Everybody was suddenly an expert on Islam, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I mostly kept my mouth shut and observed. Were white friends treating brown friends differently? Was I? How did I look at a stranger with a turban on the street? On an airplane?

We are not perfect, and in times of struggle it is easy to look at somebody who is different as inferior. In the aftermath of 9/11 our country fought with these feelings, with stereotypes, prejudices, hatred, and bigotry. I fought with them too, as a Muslim child and an American. Islam or America? It was us against them in a battle to the death.

And now we have every reason to hold our heads high. Not because we defeated "them," but because we as a nation learned that one group doesn't always represent the whole. There are Muslims who support the terrorist attacks. Most don't. A turban doesn't equate to terrorist. Every individual is free to think whatever she wants to think. We learned that. But when those beliefs threaten our existence, we must defend ourselves. We learned that, too. That's freedom, the American way. That's why our nation is still here, will always be here, and will always draw envy from other nations that can't deal with that.

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