9/11 anniversary casts shadow for Muslims: author

Thu Sep 8, 2011 3:08am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The approaching tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks is casting a long shadow for U.S. Muslims, many of whom are dreading the approaching anniversary because they fear a resurgence of prejudice and hate, said author Mona Eltahawy.

Egyptian-born but U.S.-based, Eltahawy said the attacks on New York and Washington were a shocking and negative introduction to Islam for many in the United States, compounding the difficulties for Muslims already struggling with their identities in the diverse, secular nation.

Despite the fact that African American Muslims had been in the nation since slavery days, public awareness of Muslims in general had remained low.

"A lot of Americans were totally unaware of what a Muslim is until 9/11. The first introduction to Islam was a very negative one," Eltahawy said from Melbourne, where she attended the Melbourne Writer's Festival.

"Now that we're coming up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it's a time to say we're here and we're not going anywhere, we're Americans and Muslims too. It's been a difficult ten years and a lot of us are dreading this tenth anniversary because it brings out a lot of hate and prejudice."

Eltahawy, a former news agency journalist turned essayist and columnist, left the security of an office job for the hazards of freelance work just around the time of 9/11.

While she didn't personally experience any hostility, which she attributed largely to the fact that she doesn't wear a head scarf or "look Muslim," the heated atmosphere -- and all the years since -- have made her question what that phrase actually means.

One of her biggest struggles is to break the stereotype that conservative equals authentic.   Continued...

<p>Muslims pray at King Fahad Mosque on the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Culver City, Los Angeles, California August 1, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>