“September 11th happened once, yet years later for some of us it’s still September 12th.”
– Naveed K.
Call my mom to tell her to be safe today.
She beats me to it and assures me she’ll be going to teach her course at the college and be back.
It’s September 11, she says very rushed and quiet.
We tell each other to be safe today.
I am angry.
I am angry that I still have to tell her to be safe in her own country.
That she has to tell me to be safe in my own country.
That while we have become victims to this day, we are still vilified.
Villified for witnessing our religion of peace being hijacked by terrorists.
While we mourn all lives lost to this horrific day 16 years ago.
Reliving September 12, 2001.
I am angry.
Why must I continue to educate the ignorant?
About all 1.6 billion of us.
Over 1.6 billion Muslims + all people of color and those who look like my Muslim sisters and brothers.
Today, I would feel safer in a country other than my own.
My only home.
I can’t stop thinking about my sister at school.
The same school I attended over 10 years ago.
Where I was the only female, Muslim, hijab-wearing student.
The first one many of the students and teachers had ever met.
The same school consisting of a majority white, conservative, Republican background families.
The same one that held patriotic day this year, where my sister wore the colors of the American flag but reported that so many other students walked around campus carrying HUGE flags and wearing the red “Make America Great Again” hats.
The same school where two boys walked by my sister and her friend and made remarks last year about 9/11 to them… On a day that wasn’t 9/11.
The same school that thinks it’s wise to include highly bias, and potentially dangerous to other Muslim and “Muslim looking” students, course on Sharia law and Boko Haram to freshman geography students.
I pray for both my sisters. My brother. My mother. My father. My community. All POC communities.
I check Instagram, where my sister reminds us siblings to be safe.
Where my brother reiterates for us to be safe.
I pack up my laptop and head to a safe spot. A local coffee spot.
I drive over through streets where a million American flags suddenly showed up overnight to line the street for this day.
I am slightly shocked that this makes me feel less safe today.
Shocked that I would be afraid to admit this.
I look into the cars around me and remember how I felt a little bit safer when my brother got my car windows tinted as a gift to me after experiencing life-threatening incidents of road rage and hate from fellow drivers.
I remember how stupid it made me feel later that I thought tinted windows would help or protect me.
Memories of all kinds of incidents of hate that I have been forced to experience flood my vision.
I make it to the coffee shop.
I walk in and place my stuff down.
I look around.
Two young black men chatting and working on their computers.
A white couple keeping their cute kid entertained.
A young Latina sipping coffee as she checks her phone.
Two white middle-aged women, one in a neck cast, laughing about how long it has been since they’ve met up.
A young Middle Eastern looking guy and his friend relaxing from escaping the 92º weather outside.
A young white woman with a backpack covered in drawings of puppies, hand-writing her notes.
A young Mexican teen walks in to meet with the Latina to work on a project.
A well-dressed, young white man telling a friend over the hone that he’s taking a quick break from business.
A Filipino mom treating her young daughter and son to sweetened milk and baked goods as she sips on her coffee and watched them draw.
A purple haired teen on the corner coach studying.
I note the different backgrounds to myself to remind myself of how diverse of a population I’m surrounded by in this moment.
Just another day for every person in this coffee shop.
I’m still thinking about my sister.
I’m still worried for every POC person affected by this day and recent events.
I remember my experience on the east coast nearing 9/11 and getting a call from my parents on the night before 9/11 begging me to stay out of NYC and stay in New Jersey with my cousin’s family for the day.
I remember making them feel better by sitting in a coffee shop in Princeton for them and then letting them know later that NYC may have been better, a lot more diverse that Princeton, NJ.
I remember feeling this fear for my family and communities that day after Trump was elected.
Not because we weren’t already aware or ready for what was yet to come.
Not because our country’s history hasn’t prepared us to be ready to handle anything worse.
But, because I was in London at the time and felt… Safe.
I find out that the journal that published my essay, “Unapologetically Muslim-American and Proud,” earlier this January has shared my article again with a quote from my essay, “I faced Islamophobia before 9/11, even before wearing the hijab.”
I hesitate to share it.
I hesitate to retweet it because I know that today I can’t handle the disgusting hate I receive on Twitter.
For being Muslim. A Muslim-American. A hijabi.
Sometimes, just attacked for my picture of a hijabi laughing as I carry a huge coffee mug.
I close off my Twitter to the public.
Just for today.
I see this photo with the quote.
“September 11th happened once, yet years later for some of us it’s still September 12th.” by Naveed K.
Shared by my sister and shared by friends.
I read the beginning of his caption.
“Herein the vilified become not villain but victim. Victim to judgment, racism, discrimination, profiling, abuse, harassment, violence, hate, and so much more.”
It hits my heart.
Makes it hurt.
I worry about sharing anything these days.
I worry because I’m still struggling to find stable employment.
I worry because I have been discriminated against while applying and interviewing for positions.
Discriminated against in very evidently and unmistakably open ways for showing up and walking in as a Muslim-American, hijabi-wearing woman.
Proud of who I am as I fight, determined to reach my goals.
Worry. Anxiety. Fear. Anger.
This won’t stop me from writing.
From having my voice heard.
So, I write this before going back to my work of editing.
I too mourn for our country. Every day.
Because, today will end.
But, our communities will continue to hurt.
Refusing to give in to hate.
Love and courage above all.
As a Muslim, I believe in these words.
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives” Quran, 4:135.
Unapologetically Muslim-American hijabi and proud