Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

A girl at a rally in New York, September 11, 2010
A girl at a rally in New York, September 11, 2010
Photo by (Creative Commons)

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:

A few days before 9/11, then-high school freshman Nida Chowdhry started wearing the hijab — the Islamic headscarf worn by Muslim women. After the attacks, however, her mother feared wearing hijab might threaten her daughter's safety. “My mom thought I shouldn’t wear it because she didn’t want any harm to come to me,” Chowdhry said. “I remember seeing girls that had made the same decision as I had, and they wouldn’t make eye contact with me because they chose to stop wearing a headscarf.”

Chowdhry, who studied film and English at UC-Irvine, says she was affected by the media’s misrepresentation of Muslims, Islam and minority ethnic groups like Arabs and Southeast Asians. She questioned her religious identity after the attacks, mostly due to confusion over how Muslims and Islam were portrayed in the media. “I feel like the rhetoric calls on Muslims to say, ‘OK this is what good Islam is and this is what bad Islam is,’” she said. “Are you a good Muslim or a bad Muslim? The rhetoric tries to pit you against yourself sometimes.”

One of the five young people interviewed was KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh, who has written several posts for Multi-American. She wrote most recently about how Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and reflection, is celebrated in an always-on American society.

The audio for the segment can be downloaded here.