Local Muslims remember how after the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks sunk in, a second wave of dread about Muslims being blamed for what happened washed over them.
Five years on, they are still looking over their shoulders – fearful of the government, wary about opposing policies they disagree with – but trying to be strong.
On the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, after pulling a double shift as a resident at a hospital in Newark, N.J., waiting for the wounded from New York who never came, he walked into the cafeteria.
“A man I knew said, ‘We’ve got to go bomb these people,’ ” said Khasimuddin, now a 31-year-old doctor of internal medicine in Davis, where he graduated from high school and studied as an undergraduate. “Now, you can say whatever you want. But you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.
“But I couldn’t hold it in. I said, ‘So who are you going to go bomb?’ He said, ‘Those people.’ I said, ‘What people?’ “
Just as he lived with seeing the dust and smoke, day after day, from the ground zero, Khasimuddin was ever aware of the polarization the attack caused.
At the time of the first World Trade Center bombing, in 1993, Khasimuddin was a student at UC Davis deepening his understanding of Islam and becoming increasingly politically aware. For anyone who’d watched closely, then, he said, what happened after 9-11 came as little surprise.
The Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act begat the Patriot Act.
Terrorists were called “radicals,” “fundamentalists,” “Islamists” or “Islamofacists” in the media. The implication always seemed to be that terrorism was rooted in faith when, to Khasimuddin, “‘Muslim terrorist’ is a stupid idea” – an oxymoron. . .
A civil engineer and the director of communication for the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, El-Nakhal, 30, said that in the days following 9-11, friends who wore head scarfs were spit on, the Islamic Center of Davis’ sign repeatedly was vandalized and a fuming co-worker in Sacramento told her he’d heard a school bus driver made hateful remarks to a Muslim girl.
But at the Friday prayer service at the Islamic Center following the attacks, non-Muslim neighbors brought flowers. Others showed up with baseball bats – determined to protect them.
El-Nakhal and her father Hamza, as president of the Islamic Center and now of the regional CAIR chapter, have been visible time and again when incidents big or small have called for someone to defend or explain Islam and speak out against prejudice.