It was a Tuesday morning like any other. While I waited for my cousin to take me to Crafton Hills College, I flipped through the TV channels.
Every station was airing the news and horrific images of two high towers falling down, fires raging, people running, screaming and crying.
Five years ago, my English wasn’t as good, and I didn’t understand what had happened.
Later, at the college library, it was explained to me.
A boy approached me and asked me where I was from.
“I’m Egyptian,” I said.
He asked if I was Muslim. I am.
They were saying Muslims attacked the World Trade Center, he said.
All I remember is thinking, “No, it just can’t be.”
Everyone on campus was in front of a television, watching the attacks unfold. I kept hoping that whatever this trouble was, that Muslims were not responsible.
By the end of the day, it was clear that the terrorists were claiming to be Muslim, and I had to explain it to my mother.
We stood across from each other, looking at the television. I could see the tears in her eyes, and I couldn’t help but cry myself. I cried for the twin towers, for everyone who died. But I also cried for the image of my religion, which was also destroyed.
I am Muslim, and was born and raised in a Muslim family. I was taught about Islam. I was taught to be kind, respectful, compassionate, helpful and peaceful.
My uncle sat next to me when I was little, and read the Quran to me, and taught me how to pray. I remember him telling me about the prophet, and the first time I walked into a mosque. On that day five years ago, it suddenly seemed to mean nothing.
Why should I be careful about saying what religion I believe in? Which crisis should I weep for? To me, being Muslim meant being good and peaceful and kind. Had I lived in a bubble, believing in something that wasn’t really true?
In my English class the next day, one of the students asked, “Why can’t they just drop a bomb and kill them all?”
That was harsh to hear.
I wanted to say something to my classmate, to defend my faith, to defend the people who believe as I do. But I felt like I couldn’t. I was afraid.
I do not consider myself religious, but I started to study. I had to learn for myself what Islam was about, so that when I was asked if I was Muslim, I could confidently say that I am, or distance myself from the religion of my upbringing.
And I learned this: The men who committed the horrible acts are not my people.
They do not represent what I represent. They do not speak for me, and they do not know the God I know.
Please do not call them Muslims. Islam does not support terrorism.