World Watch

#19 Years Of 9/11 : A Muslim American Looks Back At The Racism Faced Post Attacks

Nineteen years on since the devastating attack in New York took place, where the World Trade Centre buildings collapsed after planes hijacked by al-Qaeda operatives crashed into the twin buildings killing over 2,700 people, US Marine Veteran officer Mansoor T. Shams, a Muslim American recalls the racism he faced post the attack.

“As the days went on, we would come to find out the attacks originated from Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan, the country I was born in. It was heart wrenching, painful to say the least. Deep down I began wondering why did it have to be the people with whom I shared heritage, and, worse, the same faith. Why not someone else? Why not some other group? ” Shams wrote in his opinion piece on CNN.

“Although the Marine Corps is a unique breed of brotherhood, which prides itself on certain core values like honor, courage, and commitment, I started to experience a level of discrimination I could never have imagined,” he added.
He further went on to say that “certain Marines” gave him weird looks while others “half-jokingly and “openly called” him names such as “Taliban, terrorist and Osama bin Laden”.

“In the beginning, I’d either try to ignore it or just laugh it off — but as time went on, I could feel things starting to get to me. I made complaints to my leadership, but they did little to intervene. Sadly, sometimes they were part of the problem,” he wrote further.

Shams also recalled the time his warrant officer denied his request to hold-off a physical training until the end of the holy month of Ramzan. “The armed forces do make reasonable accommodations as needed, so I felt that the denial was part of the discrimination I was facing. Luckily, I passed my physical fitness test successfully without passing out,” he said further in an opinion piece to CNN.

While adjusting to the new way of life — since he joined the Marine Corps — was hard, things became harder post 9/11 for the veteran.

He wrote, “Adjusting to the Marine Corps way of life up until that point had been hard enough. Now, I was dealing with a new environment that was more intimidating. Months later, I was moved to a different unit on base and able to start over, earning a Marine of the Quarter award and later a meritorious promotion to Corporal.”
Though, he does not accuse the Marine Corps of being “full of racists and bigots” but added that racism and bigotry do exist in the armed forces as well.

“To be absolutely clear, I’m not saying the Marine Corps is full of racists and bigots. I’m just saying, unfortunately, racism and bigotry also exists within the armed forces,” he wrote.

However, as the “chaos was still going on”, he “somehow managed” to remain true to who he was and the oath he took as a US Marine. He further wrote that he had reached out to the leadership to make him aware of his unique background — an ability to understand Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

“In short, I was asking my leadership to use me in any way that could be helpful, even if that meant sending me into the heat of battle. I was ready to die for my country. This was my mindset. This was the level of love and dedication I had for America. In many ways, what I was doing was Islam in action, because love and service to country of residence is part of my Islamic faith as taught by the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad,” the veteran wrote.

The veteran further wrote that “for far too long” Muslims had to bear “dreadful discrimination, persecution, hate and bigotry” because of the 19 terrorists “who claimed the peaceful religion”.

“So yes, “some people did something” and it’s unfair to associate all Muslims with the atrocity. It’s the same sort of battle Black America faces today if one black person does something wrong, thousands of African Americans are now automatically seen as criminal,” Shams said further.

He further urged the American public “who still may hold ‘some sort of” anti-Muslim discrimination because of the 9/11 attacks “to take a moment to think and to understand that Muslims were also among the victims of the attack”.
“Muslims have served and died for this nation since the days of George Washington. In fact, there has never been an America without Muslims. So as you commemorate 9/11 this year, let’s honour those innocent lives lost, together, hand in hand, in solidarity as Americans. But whatever you do, please don’t bring our Muslim faith into it,” he wrote further.
On September 11, 2001, the United States faced the deadliest terrorist attack in world history. In a span of just 102 minutes, both towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed after planes hijacked by al Qaeda operatives crashed into them, claiming the lives of at least 2,753 people.

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