Sixteen years after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, we still live in a world afflicted by Islamophobia, and it’s time for that to change.
The anniversary of 9/11 arrives with its annual surge of emotions: heartache, anxiety, rage — but especially — fear. Even sixteen years later, many still hold hateful and violent biases against Muslims and the Islamic community. FBI research shows a 67 percent increase in anti-Islamic hate crimes since just 2015.
Most Millenials experienced the 9/11 attacks as children or even toddlers. We grew up alongside people of the Muslim faith as classmates, co-workers and friends.
The Pew Research Center estimates that 3.3 million Muslims live in America as of 2015, and that population is expected to double before 2050. Casting so much fear and blame on an entire community for the horrific actions of a few extremists is counter to the values of our society: equality and freedom.
Another Pew Research Center poll shows that 74 percent of American-Muslims already see President Trump as “unfriendly” toward them. The Council on American-Islamic Relations estimates that Islamophobia will only grow stronger if such intolerance continues without resistance.
Turning a blind eye to the existence of Islamophobia is destructive to the future of our society by allowing the terrorists behind 9/11 to let fear override our thoughts and actions. Instead, we need to foster the Muslim community and peacefully eradicate Islamophobia. To deny the presence of Islamophobia is ignorant and to ignore it is irresponsible.
The first step in challenging Islamaphobia, as individuals, is to speak out against the grip it has on our nation. Campus Pride writes that speaking out against Islamophobia among friends, family and on social media helps to change minds. Using these platforms allows you make others aware of the dangers of the “them-versus-us” mentality.
There are also local groups in Atlanta to become involved with, such as CAIR’s Georgia chapter, where activists can attend meetings, donate and join marches against social injustices, like Islamophobia. By becoming involved, you become part of a larger movement toward peace.
The terrorist attacks in New York City sixteen years ago left a scar on every single person in America, whether you were a child unable to remember or understand it, or an adult still haunted by its memories.
One of my favorite metaphors, as told by Carl Jung, says that bad things in our past are like carvings on a tree. The carving never goes away and never moves. It may even become deeper, but the tree can grow and get bigger. It can even gain more branches and while the carving remains in the bark it becomes a much smaller part of the tree.
America is a lot like that tree — we‘re growing and changing with each passing year. While 9/11 remains an important part of our history, we have the opportunity to create a world free of Islamophobia. It is our turn to make that change and, out of respect for the people that died sixteen years ago, create a better and more beautiful world from it.