Muslim American college students react to bin Laden’s death after growing up in his shadow

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Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Members of Cal State Long Beach Muslim Student Association (left to right) Hamad Nasoordeen, Thamer Hussein and Khalil Daniel Sheikh.

A generation of young Muslim Americans has grown up with the specter of Osama bin Laden as a bad guy on the run from American soldiers. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez spoke with some of them at Cal State Long Beach about their reactions now that bin Laden is dead.

Engineering major Hamad Nasoordeen was on Facebook when he saw his friends posting that bin Laden had died.

“My first reaction was, ‘Why’d it take so long to find the guy?’ It’s a good thing, there’s one more criminal that’s dead,” he says.

Thamer Hussein’s Palestinian father called him to the TV to watch the news.

“I think it’s good for everybody that served, they feel that the mission was accomplished, so it’s good for the people that served in the Army,” he says. “It’s also good for the family members who lost loved ones, you know.”

Hussein was in middle school when al-Qaida attacked the United States. He’d moved to the United States with his parents the year before. Back then, he says, he didn’t understand the seriousness of the attacks.

“I got to school the next few days, I got picked on a lot,” he recalls. “People were calling me terrorist a lot. In middle school. I was only 11.”

The hunt for bin Laden fed hatred toward Muslims in this country, says Cal State Long Beach senior Khalil Daniel Sheikh. He says that’s stopped many American Muslims from speaking up for their religion.

“There’s only so many Muslims that are willing to be active, and only a handful that are active,” he says. “For example, our Muslim student association only has 13 to 15 active members.”

Sheikh says Islamophobia in the United States won’t die with bin Laden. That’s what motivates him and others in the Cal State Long beach Muslim Student Association to continue organizing dialogues among young people of many faiths.

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