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10 years later

For Muslims, a decade of polarization - and hope of reflection Add to ...

It started just days after the towers fell.

A Bangladeshi immigrant working at a gas station in Texas was shot point-blank in the face.

Years later, an Egyptian woman, pregnant, was stabbed to death in a German courtroom where she testified against her attacker for anti-Muslim insults he made over the headscarf she wore.

In the decade since 9/11, mosques have been assaulted with stones and left to burn across the world and close to home, in Hamilton and Montreal, igniting debate over the concepts of tolerance and limits of multiculturalism. For Muslim communities across Canada and elsewhere, living under the shadow of towers became analogous to living under a microscope. Some community leaders are frustrated that a heinous crime committed by a few has forced an entire faith to defend itself. Others see it as an opportunity for reflection and reinvention.

El-Farouk Khaki

Refugee and immigration lawyer and founder of Salaam: Queer Muslim Community, Toronto

Many of these people had to come out and say, ‘Well hang on a second, I’m a Muslim, but I’m not that kind of a Muslim’ or ‘That’s not my Islam.’ I think it generated a discourse within Muslims. It brought some people out of their Muslim closets, if you will. And it generated a discourse as to what was Islam and what it meant. So there’s been a whole sort of conversation around gender and sexuality and human rights and social justice and so on and so forth. I don’t know whether you can attribute one singular outcome of 9/11. I think there has been a lot of bad that has come out of 9/11, but I also think that some good has come out of 9/11.

Fauzia Viqar

Women’s rights activist, Pakistan

The hatred for the West has resulted in rising orthodoxy in Pakistan. Now, when I look around, there’s been a huge rise in religious seminaries. And in the south of Punjab there are like 1,000 religious schools, which weren’t there before. And they came up as a reaction to the American war on terror. They came up because of this confrontation of ideologies.

Tarek Fatah

Founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and political commentator, Toronto

People scared of Islam have a rational fear. Why would my neighbour and the neighbour of every Muslim family in this country not ask this question – What the heck is going on? After 9/11, it is not Islam that came on the horizon, it is Islamism. Every Muslim is scared of Islamism.

Zarqa Nawaz

Creator of the comedic TV show Little Mosque on the Prairie, Saskatchewan

Being Muslim is causing me to be neurotic. I curl my eyelashes before I go to pump gas. After all, we Muslims have to look good at all times lest we be judged as crazed unhinged lunatics. The loss of 3,000 innocent lives was an unbelievable tragedy. A horrible side effect of 9/11 was the exploitation of the tragedy to spread fear and mistrust about the Muslim community. I ignored the rising tide of Islamophobia in the form of blogs and websites. After all, people could surely distinguish hate speech from a real living-breathing people. Then Anders Behring Breivik killed 92 of his fellow citizens in Norway, citing these very same blogs and websites as part of his inspiration for the murders. Every community has its crazies, but no community deserves to be defined by them. Changing public opinion is a two-way street but it has to happen. My hope for the next 10 years is that Muslims become defined by their commitment to social justice, gender equity, tolerance of other faiths and life style choices. Just as anti-Semitism has become intolerable, I hope Islamophobia is eradicated as well. Hate hurts all of us eventually. And my eyelashes could really use a break.

Azmi Haq

Executive Producer of Salon Camden, Toronto

There is a definite sense of realization that within that block that we call the Islamic block, number one, it is not a monolithic block, and it's wrong and it was absolutely wrong to tar everyone with the same brush. And number two, that we need allies on the ground. We need people in that part of the world who believe in stuff that is dear to us as well, like freedom, like rights, like simple pleasures that we get in life every day here and take for granted – and which are not given to people there or people are denied, masses are denied – people who believe, believe in those things, those ideals of freedom. We only knew dictators and kinds and usurpers of powers and those were the only levers we had post-9/11 and we used them.

Maher Arar

Syrian-Canadian who was deported to Syria in 2002 under suspicion of links to al-Qaeda, Ottawa

Former and current Western politicians should have a moment of truth and admit that the cost of these wars both in human and economical terms far outweigh what they have achieved on the ground. Despite the fact that these wars were launched as part of the ‘war on terror,’ i.e. to rid the world of terrorism, it seems that these wars have actually achieved the exact opposite; terrorism has been on the rise over the last decade and facts on the ground prove it. What’s worse is that the ‘war on terror,’ a term invented by George W. Bush, has been progressively turning into a ‘war on Islam,’ at least that is how it is perceived by the majority of Muslims, as confirmed by various polls. Banning the minarets in Switzerland or ‘burning the Koran’ campaign in the U.S. only reinforce this perception.

Faisal al Yafai

Chief political columnist, The National, UAE

It’s very hard to see the past 10 years has brought something positive. It certainly has polarized the Muslim community in the West. The politicians did not explain to us, that while the threat is real . . . it was not this overarching enormous threat that we had never experienced before. What we should have said, metaphorically, to the terrorists of 9/11 is: ‘We won’t allow you to change our world.’ But in fact we allowed ourselves to be swept up in that view of the world.

It was a tidal wave of hate, of prejudice, of discrimination against the community that we never expected nor were we prepared for it. That of course has caused unmeasured pain, agony and anguish among the Muslim community and I don’t think . . . this pain has ever been addressed. The prejudice is still there. The kind of permission given to bigots to talk about Muslim and Islam has become mainstream. The story continues. I am sure that we will be able to achieve peace and things will change. The future is much, much better than the difficulties that we have passed through. My worry is not that we will get there, it is how long we will take to get there. Are we going to go into other wars? Are there other people [who are]going to loose there lives because of us not addressing issues quickly? Will we have other psychological problems directed at whole communities before we realize that we did wrong? When are we going to get there? I think this is the question. The answer for it is the responsibility for each and every Canadian. [Best quote to end on if there is a logical end on the page]/note>

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