Four Myths About 9/11 & Muslims I’m Tired of Hearing

Palestinians didn’t celebrate 9-11; that was footage from 1991.
This one is trotted out often by sympathetic, well-meaning folks who want to believe that no one could celebrate a tragedy like 9/11. They’re wrong: there is no evidence to support the claim that CNN was conspiring to make Palestinians look bad by airing old footage and plenty to support the claim that the footage was taken right after the 9/11 attacks occurred.

It makes sense to profile people who appear to adhere to Islam since 9-11 was planned and carried out by Muslims.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Sam Harris. It’s comforting to think that terrorists wear specific garb or all look a certain way and that, therefore, targeting people who look or dress a certain way is helpful in preventing terrorism. If only those darn politically-correct simpering liberals would let us, amirite? Except, if you take a look at the hijackers, what do you see? No long beards — or beards at all, for the most part. They look like any number of brown men in the US. Furthermore, they dressed in “normal” garb, as in pants and shirts rather than robes and turbans (most turban-wearers are Sikh rather than Muslim, anyway).

Muslims didn’t condemn 9-11.
At least within the United States, nearly every major Muslim org and mosque put out a condemnation of 9/11, just as they have done with every other major terrorist act. Why wasn’t that better publicized, then? Ask yourself what tends to make the news especially after a terrorist attack. “Muslim Group Condemns Terrorism” is either going to be ignored entirely or buried because it’s not sexy, violent, offensive, or otherwise attention-grabbing. Furthermore, Muslims aren’t exactly a huge percentage of the American population.

Some claim that Muslims should have gone further in order to make their condemnation of terrorism clear and public, with a march, perhaps, or a giant protest of some kind. The problem is that, especially right after 9/11, most of us Muslims were, frankly, scared shitless. We faced potential and actual violence from our fellow Americans for a violent act that killed several of our own. Organizing a giant public spectacle to appease those who automatically believed us to be terrorists wasn’t exactly the first thing on our minds when we couldn’t go about our daily lives without fear. Later, we had plenty to fear from the government: the Patriot Act was used to falsely accuse, incarcerate, and persecute innocent Muslims; the government lied to us despite our cooperation in anti-terror measures on at least one documented occasion.

Personally, I believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. While I have my issues with Islam and agree that there are problems with the Quran that lend themselves to being used to justify horrendous violence, that’s no reason to automatically assume that every Muslim is pro-terror unless they’ve participated in a march to “prove” that they aren’t. For some of us, such demands simply add insult to injury. Muslim Americans are just as targeted by Al Qaeda and its ilk as any other American: Bin Laden himself said so*. If someone who is arguably the face of terror tells you that Muslim Americans aren’t his people and you still believe them to be his supporters, well, I don’t know what more I can say. I don’t think it’s helpful in fighting terrorism to lump Muslims who aren’t terrorists in with terrorists, but hey, what do I know?

It was disrespectful for Muslims to want to build the Ground Zero Mosque.
For the record, the building is a community center called Park51 and wasn’t built on Ground Zero, so the term “Ground Zero Mosque” is a deliberate troll. For many years, there have been mosques close to the World Trade Center site in New York City. There was a Muslim prayer room in the World Trade Center itself. New York is a multi-cultural city and most of its residents understand that. If Muslim Americans who aren’t at all affiliated with terrorism aren’t allowed to build community centers anywhere near Ground Zero, then by that logic, no churches of any denomination should be allowed anywhere near reproductive health centers.

* I was unable to find a link to it, but I do recall seeing a Bin Laden video at some point where he basically said that it’s cool to kill American Muslims because they’re on the wrong side of things. Even if I’m misremembering, Al-Qaeda has generally been fine with killing Muslims who are in the way of their non-Muslim targets and considers all Americans a target, no exceptions stated.

Update: Astute commenter Nathan found a link to a transcript of a Bin Laden tape where he says

Anyone who aids America or help it, including Arab leaders, or anyone who fights alongside them or provides them with bases or any kind of support, even if it was only verbal, in order to kill Muslims in Iraq, that is a Muslim that he is no longer a Muslim and therefore he will be a legitimate target.

Four Myths About 9/11 & Muslims I’m Tired of Hearing

Never Forget: Reflections on a Dozen Years

[Content Notice: terrorism-related violence, anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Semitism]

Before my second day of high school, the reactions to me were more along the lines of confusion and pity than hostility. Lots of “you don’t have to wear that here, honey”s and “Are you fresh out of Iraq?”s and mistaking me for a pediatric cancer patient.

Healthiest-looking cancer patient ever?
Healthiest-looking cancer patient ever?

The morning of my second day of high school, I awoke to the sweet, poppy strains of whatever Radio Disney was playing (and possibly censoring) at the time. I quietly made my way down the stairs so as not to wake my kid brother. Halfway down, I paused on the landing and noticed that the TV was on, its volume turned way down, its eerie light the only thing illuminating my mother’s face. The mouth on that face opened to say the first non-sung words I heard that morning.

“Something happened to the World Trade Center.”

At the time, I was steeped in an odd blend of far-left political dissent via my pro-Palestinian protesting, Islam-flavored conservatism via my upbringing and reading, and far-right patriotism via Christian TV programming. My sleep-addled brain, then, heard “World Trade Organization” rather than “World Trade Center,” so I assumed “something bad” meant that it had been disbanded or something. I said the first thing that came to mind: I yawned out a sleepy, half-questioning, somewhat sarcastic “Yay?”

Absorbed by whatever she was watching, my mother didn’t even notice I’d said anything, so I finished making my descent to the TV room, and, for the first time, saw and heard what was on the screen. The WTO wasn’t disbanded, two separate planes had hit the World Trade Center. Disbelief set in. Perhaps my mother had unwittingly tuned into a movie with an extended news segment and hadn’t realized it. Then, she flipped the channel at a commercial break, and I saw that every single television station was covering it.

Still, our day wasn’t cancelled. We ate breakfast, dressed (complete with headscarves), and headed over to the the dentist for my appointment, then to school. I watched the footage of one tower falling, than another, as my teeth were drilled. On the way over to my high school, someone in the car next to us glanced at us and then did a double-take, glaring angrily. At school, one of my classes was cancelled because the teacher in question was worried about her New Yorker parents, so we went to the multi-purpose room to watch the news instead. That was when they started broadcasting the footage of Palestinians celebrating the attacks.

Until that moment, I hadn’t any conscious understanding of how defensive I was starting to feel. It suddenly welled up in me and bubbled out in the form of an impassioned, ill-advised-and-timed call to my classmates to understand that the United States has been waging war on Palestinians via our support of Israel for years, along with a reminder that Muslims had probably died in the attacks, all issued by a mouth still half-numb from Novacain.

On 9/12/01, my parents kept my sister and me home from school, and it was confirmed to us personally that at least one Muslim had indeed died thanks to the WTC attacks: my second cousin. We spent the day mourning her in prayer and fretting over our fate. My mother, a Canadian citizen, started talking about how we could go north if we got “kicked out” of the United States. There was no time to reflect on the irony of having to worry about being placed in internment camps like Japanese Americans were during World War II when any of us could have been my cousin, killed just like any other American could have been at the hands of Al-Qaeda.


My father suggested that we women might have to stop wearing our headscarves, which shocked and appalled me. A few weeks later, when we heard about friend of a relative was followed in her car by men who turned out to be drunk off their asses and armed to the teeth, it didn’t seem so outlandish after all.

I remember crying when the news reported on how Japanese American survivors of internment camps came out publicly in support of American Muslims. I remember being infuriated when someone asked “Was ‘he’ one of the hijackers?” after I told them that my Muslim cousin had died in the WTC attacks — and being equally as infuriated when someone else in a different context asked the same thing and then claimed it was a “joke.” I remember being solemnly informed by British Muslim relatives that “the Jews were warned” about 9/11 since it was all a Zionist conspiracy. I remember the receptionist at the dentists’ office quitting or being fired since she was unable to treat any Muslims with decency after 9/11 (her New Yorker brother turned out to be fine but she was quite upset regardless).

9/11 led me to research Islam even more than I had before so that I could answer people’s accusations that my then-faith was inherently violent and evil. That research eventually led to my deconversion. My deconversion led me to spend time with people who didn’t know who I was and where I’d come from in the hopes that, after years of having to act as the Muslim ambassador to the world and defender of the faith, I could just be me.

Vain hopes. Once, out of nowhere, someone who read me as Latina (i.e. assumed that I couldn’t be of Muslim background) informed me, just as solemnly as my British relatives had about “the Jews,” that “the Muslims were warned.” I told him about my cousin. He asked me if “he” was one of the hijackers. Someone else in some other context asked me if my family was “Muslim or American.” A man who I had the gall to honestly turn down with an “I’m not interested” told me that as “a Middle Eastern” who wasn’t a virgin, the best I could hope for out of life was a hasty marriage to a poor, already-married old man to “save my honor” and prevent me from being murdered by my own family.

“We all know how violent you sand [n-word]s are,” he reminded me. “Remember 9-11?”

Never Forget: Reflections on a Dozen Years