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September 11 Attack: Reflections On 9/11, Then And Now

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I will never forget 9/11. I was at my friend’s home in Sacramento because I was scheduled for a Doctor’s appointment at UC Davis Hospital. I had been having a lot of pain and at that time they thought that I had a compressed disc in my back causing sciatica. I was living in Yuba City and I needed to be close to the hospital due to how early in the morning my medical procedure was.

My friend was a Mexican-American imam. There was a couple of other brothers at his house. They were watching the morning national news when the first plane it. Everyone was in shock. We thought that the pilot had made a fateful error. Then it happened, the second plane hit the second twin tower and we knew immediately that our beloved country was under attack.

One of the brothers said that Osama Bin Laden was going to be blamed. I had heard his name before but I was not that familiar with him. At the time we were not familiar with terrorist groups or had heard of their methodology. However, since Bin Laden was a Muslim and if in fact he was blamed, then we knew we would all be blamed and labeled as terrorists because of the attacks.

I had to leave to go to my doctor’s appointment, and because of my medical condition, I had brought with me a jalibaya or thobe, the long white cloak that is common to see Gulf Arabs wearing. So now I had only this to wear while I was at the hospital. I was really scared that someone would see me dressed like that and retaliate against me.

Within a short time Bin Laden was named as the culprit. I was still in my thobe, so I rushed to go home in order to change. Soon, as I reached my apartments my neighbors were asking me my opinion of the attacks because of what happened. I really did not have an opinion at that time. I had only been a Muslim for three to four years and had not as of that time started studying the religion heavily.

After the attacks, whenever I would try to speak to my family, they would take their anger about what happened on me since I was the only Muslim that they know. Some of my family refused to speak with me for over two years, accusing me of siding with Bin Laden.

They thought this because one of my brothers quoted a Fox News poll that stated that over 90% of Muslims supported the attacks on the World Trade Center. Of course this is not true, but the same types of lies used to create fear of and animosity towards Muslims at that time is still in place today.

When I did start speaking with family again, I would constantly get insulted. One of my brothers would use the toilet and come out and insult our Prophet and Allah. He would refer to them in crass means which I will not repeat.

Then when I was angry and confronted him about it, he grabbed me by my throat and tried to crush it. He actually tried to kill me. He said he would kill me if I did not become a Christian. At the time, he was 5 inches taller and 200 pounds heavier than me. He was built like an oak tree. He has since had a surgery which allowed him to lose weight. I have never spoken to him since.

His wife, a Mexican-American lady worked at Shasta College in Redding. One time I was on the campus and I wanted to say hello to her, she refused to speak to me because she told people that she was ashamed that I was a Muslim.

I have a sister who tells people because I am a Muslim she refuses to have me at her house because she believes that I might be on some terrorist watch list just because I am a Muslim.

Problems were not only with just my family, but with strangers as well. My job transferred me to Reno which was great because at that time there was a Muslim scholar from al-Azhar at the Reno Mosque. I was working in Wireless Retail inside of the Super K-Mart. I would often wear my kufi, or Islamic headwear at that time.

As a result, people would call the store and say that I was a Bin Laden supporter and that I should not be allowed to work or to live in the USA. Other people would call and say that if they saw me in the parking lot they would shoot me. I would need to start having security escort me to my car after work. One person even came in the store drunk and threatened to shoot me.

Later, I was transferred to the Concord Sam’s Club to help bring the store numbers up at the Wireless Retail. The Manager of the Sam’s Club in Concord refused to allow me to wear my kufi because she said it was a religious symbol; however, there were Christian employees wearing crosses. When I mentioned this to her it did not matter.

Later I moved to Ogden, Utah in order to attend Weber State. I first went to go stay with a friend while I got housing. The first day I was in Utah, a Neo-Nazi skinhead in North Ogden threatened to murder me for being Muslim.

After I was a student at Weber State University, I become the non-traditional student Senator. Many people were upset that I got this position. The highly Mormon school could not understand how a white person could be a Muslim. So many hated me just because I am white and a Muslim. I had a few death threats emailed to me from at least three different people that I had to give to campus police.

I had a roommate at the Weber State housing who was from Wyoming. He would speak about how in his hometown a Muslim woman was stomped to death in the Walmart parking lot. He was a White Evangelical Christian. One day, after the school year just ended, he started saying that Allah was a fallen angel and started insulting the MSA. I told him if he had a problem with me we could step outside. He went into his room and called the campus police and told them I was a terrorist.

So the campus police come into the room, and they ask me, “Why are we here?” I said, “I do not know, you tell me”. They said, “We heard that you are a terrorist, we will search your room for bombs and a gun”. Then without any due process of law, they arrested me. Later it was found out that the accusations made against me were false and all charges were dropped.

I had been working at Sprint in the Mall in Ogden for only a few days when the sales manager found out I was a Muslim. I had asked for Friday afternoons off so that I could pray. When he found out I was a Muslim, he fired me the same day. He did not do it himself, but instead had the store manager do it.

The pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Redding, California started insulting when he found out I was a Muslim.  He approached me in the Mt. Shasta Mall and invited me to his church.  I said I am a Muslim.  He asked me “If I would ever strap a bomb to myself”.

These are only a few of many more negative interactions that I have had with my fellow Americans. They treat me as other just because I am of a different faith. It is not only whites that have done this, but blacks and Mexicans as well. There are bigots in all ethnic groups.

It is important for me to talk about this because on 9/11, I was a double victim. Not only was my country attacked by radical Jihadis whom I later found out were Khawarij, but these same Khawarij hijacked my faith and made the world believe that we are all terrorists. As a result, I have never felt accepted in my country since.

The intolerance has gotten so bad that I have trouble sleeping at night at times. Many Muslims have been victims of murder because of hate crimes; not to mention the Sikhs that have been beaten or killed because they were mistaken as Muslims.

My experiences are what drives me to write about Islamic topics. I want to educate people. I do not want my young daughter or any other young person to have to experience what I have experienced post 9/11.

I love my country, I believe in the Constitution. I just wish that the Islamophobes that call themselves patriots would allow me and my fellow American Muslims to live in peace.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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