In the 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Muslims and Arab Americans in Chicago say they have faced continued discrimination and, in some cases, attacks.
- Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, whose offices in Chicago Lawn were set on fire months after 9/11: “We believe it was very strongly a direct response to Sept. 11. It was just the beginning — 20 years essentially of scapegoating and criminalization and surveillance and attacks against our communities.”
- Tariq El-Amin, imam at the Masjid Al-Taqwa mosque in Calumet Heights: When he hears people say “never forget” 9/11, he wants them to also remember the things that were done in the aftermath of the attacks, like the creation of the Patriot Act, which vastly boosted the government’s surveillance authority: “There was an element — even then and also now — that kind of doesn’t want American Muslims to be part of that remembrance and grieving process. They want Islam to be the enemy and be on trial.”
- Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, founder and executive director of the Syrian Community Network: She remembers people protesting after 9/11 outside the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, carrying signs that said, “Go home.” She says she saw this and thought: “Many of us are born and raised here. This is my home. There is nowhere else to go.”
- Alia Bilal, deputy director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network: The fear she says she felt in the immediate aftermath that she might be targeted because of her religion has dulled but still remains. She says there’s still a long way to go for many Muslims to be able to get past their pain over how they’ve been treated since 9/11: “We haven’t really been afforded the dignity of believing that we should — that we have a right to — grieve. That we have a right to feel devastated and angry.”
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.