How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Isn’t this the land of the free?' Growing up in an era of Muslim stereotypes

Photo by iMuslim/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Last week, Yasmin Nouh joined four other young people on the Patt Morrison Show to talk about growing up Muslim in the decade following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Here she expands on that interview, sharing her perspective in a first-person essay.

Yasmin, whose parents are immigrants from Egypt and Iran, was barely in her teens when she heard the devastating news of what had occurred in New York that morning. She writes about what followed and how, as she experienced it, helped shape who she would become.


My eyes, still heavy with sleep, lit up wide open when my father told us the spine-chilling news as he drove us to school in the morning: Two planes turned missile had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. At 13 years old, I barely understood the gravity of the terrorist attacks. When I asked who the hijackers were, he said the United States had identified Osama bin Laden as a likely suspect.

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Five young Muslims who came of age post-9/11 share their experiences

Photo by cruxphotography.com/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A girl at a rally in New York, September 11, 2010

A post this morning involved one young Lebanese American woman's experience growing up in Los Angeles following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In a first-person essay, she described the bullying that she and her sister were subjected to, a relatively common occurrence in the confusing months that followed.

But years passed and as the nation healed, young Muslims growing up in the shadow of the attacks continued to feel stigmatized. Among them were young women who wore hijab, the religious headscarves worn by many Muslim women, who endured stares and suspicion.

Earlier this week, KPCC's Patt Morrison interviewed five young Muslims who were either children or entering early adulthood at the time the hijackers attacked the World Trade Center. They shared their experiences coming of age in post-9/11 America and how it shaped them, for better or worse. An excerpt:

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He asked 'Where are you from?' Hate crime victim remembers, forgives

It's a remarkable story: A hate crime victim who was shot in the face and left partly blinded in one eye during a post-9/11 killing spree, now petitioning to spare the life of his attacker.

Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim who was born in Bangladesh, recalls what happened to him the afternoon of September 21, 2001. "A man with a gun entered the gas station where I was working. He asked me 'Where are you from?' The question seemed strange to ask during a robbery."

The man who shot him is Mark Anthony Stroman, who later admitted to being distraught in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and shooting people he believed were Arabs. He killed two others during his rampage, Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant who was Muslim, and Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu.

Stroman is scheduled to be executed tomorrow in Texas; Bhuiyan has been trying to spare Stroman's life. He has been circulating a petition to commute Stroman's sentence to life in prison via his website, World Without Hate. The New York Times featured interviews with both men earlier this week.

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The end of NSEERS, one of the most contentious post-9/11 national security programs

Photo by Timothy Valentine/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Migration Policy Institute has published a brief history and analysis of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, known as NSEERS, which was terminated in recent weeks by Homeland Security.

Implemented after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it was one of the most controversial national security programs established during that time. The idea was to collect information, fingerprints, and photographs of certain individuals entering and living in the United States, and to monitor their whereabouts. Its primary focus was on men from Muslim-majority countries.

Most contested by its critics was a "special registration" provision that required non-citizens already present in the United States to report to immigration officials for questioning. While this portion of NSEERS was suspended at the end of 2003, the rest of the program remained in effect until its termination was announced at end of April. From the MPI paper:

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American Muslim, or Muslim American?

Photo by NewMediaNormaRae/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Participants in last year's annual Muslim Day parade in New York, September 26, 2010

In the United States, a generation of young Muslims has grown up in the shadow of the September 11, 2001 attacks, among them KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh. Part of the discussion she has been privy to during these years is how Muslims, whose patriotism has been under scrutiny since, should identify themselves: as American Muslims, or as Muslim Americans?

Nouh examines arguments for both ways of self-identifying in this guest post, her second for Multi-American.

Just shy of a decade ago, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden opened a chapter in American history that has been fraught with widespread misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims.

Muslims, particularly in the United States and Europe, were asked to condemn extremism and to prove that they were patriotic to their respective countries. Amid the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment, one question became the norm to ask: Are you a Muslim or an American? Which one comes first?

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