Initially, Fawzia Tung didn’t think the attacks on Sept. 11 really affected her life. She was wrong. She soon realized it had a big impact on the way she viewed her religion.
Tung, 50, is a Chinese Muslim living in Phoenix and working for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. But it was only after the attacks that Tung unconsciously took her life down a more politically active path.
At the time of the attacks, Tung was a stay-at-home mom to seven children. She felt very free living in the U.S., able to practice her faith openly. She had no qualms about wearing her scarf in public because nobody paid any notice. But things changed the day the four planes crashed.
“Right after it happened, I was terribly conscious I was wearing a scarf,” she said. “I felt like everybody was looking at me.”
Her husband urged her to stay home if she could. He would do the grocery shopping, a monumental offer. For Tung, it was stay home or heed her husband’s advice to go out without her scarf, an option she had never until that moment considered.
“I know a number of friends who took it (the scarf) off right after 9/11,” she said.
Tung was conflicted. She always considered her relationship with Allah a private one. But her scarf became a symbol in the wake of the attacks.
“It was never a social thing before. All of a sudden it became something different,” Tung said.
A woman at a garage sale told Tung she supported her and held no ill will toward Muslims.
She decided to stand tall for her religion. Tung went to work at an Islamic school and later joined the staff at CAIR.
Looking back, Tung believes the social effects of the attacks had a positive influence on her.
“I didn’t do anything particularly Islamic before that,” she said. “I was just living my life.”