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A decade after 9/11 Muslim students hope for understanding

Freshman Ahmad Saad remembers the loneliness he felt Sept. 12, 2001, when the aftermath of the terrorist attacks began to affect his social life.

Saad, who is Muslim, was in third grade when the two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. His friends refused to sit with him at lunch the next day, he said.

“It had never occurred to me that people would point fingers at me for looking a certain way or believing what I do,” Saad said.


“We hope this panel will help clear some of the misunderstandings that have been placed on Muslims living in America and around the world,” said Matthew Stevens, president of MSA.

Saad said he finds comfort in the openness of the UNC community, but said he is still conscious of how others might look at him.

“Every 9/11 I think about the tragedy, and I feel like I have to be on the lookout for people who may be staring at me,” Saad said. “It’s me accusing them of accusing me — an interesting and horrible judgment I make without knowing what they actually think.”

Senior Omar Abdelbaky said most people at UNC are educated and open-minded about Islam, but he is waiting for the rest of the country to get on the same page.

“I dream of the day that Sept. 11 won’t be tied to Muslims, but will be tied to a day in which America, all Americans of all backgrounds, were hurt and banded together to get through a tragedy,” he said.

Abdelbaky and Saad said they are troubled by how many people directly associate the 9/11 tragedy to Islam.

“The responsibility of Muslim organizations on campus, and all Muslims, is to educate the people around us about the true Islam so that people don’t automatically assume all Muslims are radical extremists,” Abdelbaky said.

Religious studies professor Omid Safi wrote in an email that the UNC community often touts its diversity rather than solidarity among groups.

“We are content to note and even celebrate racial, ethnic, sexual, socioeconomic and class diversity without realizing that it is the subsequent interactions of these diverse groups — coming together in our unity and realizing our particularity — that allows us to move to pluralism.”

Erica Heller, a senior journalism major, said that as an outsider to religious organizations, she felt many religious groups might not understand each other.

“I don’t know what each group does individually or what their mission is, but I’m sure they could all do more for the UNC community as a whole if they worked together publicly on campus.”

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