A few days before the 10th Anniversary of 9-11, a Muslim friend and I were having an everyday conversation when I asked how her children were doing. The response I received saddened me as only injustice can. She proceeded to tell me that they had been subjected to extreme racism and physical abuse in the past few weeks. Her younger son had been attacked at his middle school for being a “bomb-maker” while her older son has been plagued by harassment at his high school, constantly being called a “terrorist” and receiving threats. After my initial anger and sadness subsided, I began to think about the children growing up in the post 9-11 world and what we, as a society, are teaching our youth.
Most of these children were either very young when 9-11 occurred or were not born yet. They have grown up with the images of the raising of the flag amidst the rubble at Ground Zero, Tower One with smoke rising from its top floors, or civilians walking the streets of lower Manhattan covered in ash. These children have been indoctrinated with “us versus them” rhetoric. However, it is rarely discussed that “terrorists” are an anomaly within the Muslim community or that ‘Islam’ literally means ‘peace’. Our society is so quick to blame without fully grasping who or what we are blaming and what the outcome of that blame might be.
In October 2010, a 16-year-old Muslim boy named Kristian was horrifically beaten by his classmates at a Staten Island high school. The beating came after months of harassment as well as verbal and physical abuse. His parents went to school authorities and the police, but little was done until the local media got involved. Kristian and my friend’s children’s stories are just two examples of the growing racist abuses suffered by American citizens because of their religion. This happens while our children are taught in school that America is the land of freedom. They are taught that the Constitution gives all citizens unalienable rights and told how Martin Luther King dreamed of freedom from racial injustice, yet in these same classrooms Muslim children are being targeted because of race, religion, and fear. Our children are taught that a democracy is a place where all voices can be heard, however, there have only been two Muslims ever elected to Congress. How is a Muslim child growing up in the “War on Terror” supposed to feel included in the American democratic system when they have so few representatives and are constantly told they are the enemy? It is time that we teach our children that everyone is entitled to the rights provided in the Constitution, no matter whom they are or what their religion is. How can we as a society continue to teach our children about freedom and justice for all while the abuse of citizens’ rights is tolerated?