On a sunny, Tuesday morning in September 2001, America endured one of the greatest tragedies in its history.
It was a moment that defined the subsequent decade for the U.S., politically and socially, but it was also a moment that laid out a decade of challenges for Muslim-Americans.
It has been nearly a week since U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, in Pakistan and Islam is again in the spotlight. Muslim students at Ohio State said they hope the renewed interest will help clear up some lingering misconceptions about their faith.
Maria Ahmad, a fourth-year in speech and hearing sciences, is president of the OSU Muslim Students’ Association and has been a follower of Islam her entire life. Ahmad said she was in sixth grade on 9/11 and remembers how students talked badly of Muslims at first, but she believes the events of that day eventually sparked sincere interest in the faith.
“I think it really opened up a window,” Ahmad said. “Yeah, at first there was some misunderstanding, but for people who actually cared to know the truth, it gave them an opportunity to learn about what (Islam) really is.”
Ahmad said, as a result, she has never felt discriminated against growing up or at OSU.
“At OSU people are really open and understanding,” Ahmad said. “Of course there are going to be some people who are going to be haters. But here at OSU, they’re not loud enough to be heard.”
The death of bin Laden might not be enough to change minds, said Ben Kern, a fourth-year in corporate training and development.
“I think it will have a negligible impact,” Kern said. “After Hitler died, Americans didn’t favor the Nazis. People that didn’t like Islam don’t dislike it just because of bin Laden.”
Ahmad and other Muslim students are hopeful that the death of bin Laden will provide another opportunity to educate the world about traditional Islam and drown out the “haters.”
For more on Muslim-American perspectives on the bin Laden assassination, check Monday’s edition of The Lantern.
Allie King contributed to this story.