CAIRO, Egypt — Ten years ago, the whole world watched in horror – no, shock – as the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed to the ground, taking everyone inside with them.
Simultaneously, the Pentagon was also hit by an airplane, but did not face the same fate.
From then on, the tragedies started.
I’m not talking about the obvious ones where families lost their loved ones or people were forever scarred, both physically and psychologically, by the experience.
I’m talking about the war that the entire world has declared on Muslims and Arabs after the Bush administration decreed that the attacks had been conducted by Muslim “terrorists,” the war that resulted in the actual wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
As the world watched the unapproachable America come to terms with the fact that it had been attacked on its own grounds, Western governments, especially the States, decided to take it out on every Muslim and/or Arab in the world, including Americans.
These actions that followed were more dangerous than any others because they targeted innocent human beings, their religion and their dignity.
No true Muslim or Arab, or any decent human being for that matter, would defend what happened that day. If the attacks were orchestrated and conducted by extremists, then there is no reason to punish an entire population or ethnic group for it.
The global community has punishments against both racism and discrimination, yet for the past 10 years, if not more, the words “Muslim” and “Arab” have become synonymous with “terrorism.”
“Random” security procedures have targeted Muslims and Arabs in particular and governments have encouraged negative feelings, resulting in the Islamophobia phenomenon.
I was only eight at the time, but I remember stories about American Arabs and Muslims being mistreated and looked down upon by their fellow citizens because of their choice of religion or origins.
I know women were afraid to go out in public veiled and many people were arrested under the pretext of the Patriot Act, keeping in mind that many of these people had been born and raised in the United States, if not their parents before them.
Regular people were cast away by many of their friends and neighbors because they were Muslims and Arabs, and apparently had somehow contributed to the bombing of the towers. It mattered not that these people had possibly been living there their whole lives.
In the turn of a day, they had become enemies of the nation – of the globe, in fact.
My words are not meant to undermine the heaviness of what happened that morning or to belittle the lives of the people that were dramatically affected by the attacks.
On the contrary, I want those people to look around and realize that they are not going through it alone, that there are other people across the globe whose lives have been touched as well.
Ten years have passed, and I am optimistically hoping that the drama of Islamophobia and the Patriot Act are fading away.
Many people are speaking against them, and coming to the aid of Muslims and Arabs around the world. Many have realized that the Arabs and Muslims are all human beings after all, who know grief and tragedy when they see them and can identify and sympathize with them.
Some do not believe it was Osama bin Laden behind the attacks, while others are aware that regardless, dozens of Muslims died in the attacks on that day, too, including a woman who was seven months pregnant.
After paying my condolences to all families and friends of the victims of 9/11, I want to stress that Muslims and Arabs are neighbors, friends, teachers and fellow citizens of the world.
Today, they are just as affected and disturbed as they were 10 years ago. There are many candles being lit and numerous memorials being held tonight, many of which are in Arab and Muslims places of the world.
My goal is to make sure that the world is not once again blinded by prejudice and hatred as it has been at many points in history. The consequences have been grave every single time, with the American Civil War, the Holocaust, and the Iraq War, among others.
It is time to put those differences aside, open our eyes to the truth and pray for all the lost souls and victims of 9/11, whatever their ethnicity, their color, their religion, their beliefs or their sex.
Lama Tawakkol is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.