There are some experiences that have such an impactthey change your life forever. The tragedy that occurred on September 11th wascertainly one of those.
After the bombing, my mom and brother forbade mygrandmother to leave the house because of all the discrimination against Muslims.We were scared for her because she wears a scarf. Then the question of how shewould attend my brother's wedding became an issue. My brother asked her to takeoff her scarf during the wedding. I don't blame him for asking because he hadgood intentions, but I still feel that he should have let her decide forherself.
My grandmother, who lived in Iran for many years, is a verysimple, but intelligent woman who has her principles. "Take off my scarf?Are you crazy?" was her response. My grandmother has been wearing her scarfsince she was a child when the Shah ruled in Iran. The Shah forbade anyone towear a scarf and would order his police to take them away. It was very difficultfor her to go out because of that. To think, she has been through so much andstill managed not to take off her scarf - at least until now.
The weddingwas marvelous. The band played, people danced and happiness set the stage for themomentous day. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, except one miserable oldwoman. She sat at the far end of the room with no scarf to cover her short hair,no sense of pride, and not a drop of happiness in her. She was hiding in a placewhere no one could have eye contact with her. Her expression revealed herdiscontent. It looked like her heart was shattered into many pieces. She wascajoled into doing this, and even though I had not participated in persuadingher, I still regret not having done something.
With this incident in mymind, I recently visited the mosque with my family. As I peered out the window ofthe car I saw police cars. I was told they were there to protect the mosque fromharm, and a strange feeling came over me. I knew why the police were needed, butthe thought of people trying to harm us because some lunatic and his whole crewof idiots were Muslim made me furious.
The assumptions people make can beso naive. I remembered my former social studies teacher who taught us that inWorld War II the Japanese were discriminated against. They were placed intointernment camps with no outside contact. They were considered a threat, spieseven. I can finally relate to their situation.
Discrimination, althoughnot in the same form, has taken over like it is king of the jungle. It has becomemore difficult for Muslims to become pilots and those with Arabic names arequestioned and scrutinized when they board a plane. How dramatically life canchange in one day is unbelievable.
As I sat in the mosque, Azam, awell-known lady of character, gave a speech about what had occurred. She spoke ofthe tragedy and how we could help. She was gathering money to help the childrenwho became orphans as a result of the bombing. The thought of these childrenbroke my heart. She calmed us and told us not to be pressured to take off ourscarves. I don't wear a scarf, but only because I made that decision myself.
Azam is the bravest woman I have ever met. "America has accepted usonce," she said "and it will accept us again." She stated thiswith firm conviction. She helped me, as well as many others, with this awkwardsituation.
Before hearing her advice, I was lost. I didn't know what to dowhen I went from class to class, with each teacher talking about the news. Manywho teach in my school are unaware of Islam. Some made false accusations andexpressed their opinion to the class as if it were fact. This is unnecessary andshould not be tolerated. I feel that there should be freedom of speech, butassumptions and rude comments should not be allowed.
I was scared tocorrect my teachers or classmates when they were steered the wrong way. Oneteacher made it sound like observing Hejab, where women cover themselves, wasludicrous and wrong. This hurt me because they didn't take time to understand thereasons behind it. I didn't know how to react. There may be some things thatpeople do and others don't - but to make others feel inferior because of theirdifferences is simply wrong. I could have just as easily criticized otherreligions, but I knew better. I regret not having said anything, and I promise tostand up for myself, as well as my beliefs, the next time I have the opportunity.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.