While Sept. 11 is a time for the nation to reflect on those who lost their lives in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it is also a time when many Muslim Americans find it necessary to keep a very low profile.
Nationwide, Muslims and Arab-Americans tell of the hate-stares, insults and physical assaults they continue to face in the eight-year aftermath of the attacks that left 2,993 people dead.
A new poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life supports their concerns. It found that 38 percent of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence. Charlotte, N.C., resident Nancy Rokayak, 45, of who is an easy target because she covers her hair in public, told The Associated Press that she gets “a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every year. I feel on 9/11 others look at me and blame me for the events that took place."
The Egyptian-born ultrasound tech said she makes sure she is wearing a red, white and blue flag pin every Sept. 11 and makes sure she doesn’t wander too far from home.
She isn’t alone.
Sarah Sayeed, 41, who lives in the Bronx, also sticks close to home when the anniversary of the attacks arrives.
"There's still a sense of ‘Should I go anywhere? Should I say anything?' There's kind of that anxiety," she also told AP. Sayeed, who was born in India and came to the U.S. at age 8, said she must "force myself to go out."
On Sept. 11, 2001 – the day 19 Arab hijackers intentionally crashed two airliners into the Twin Towers of the New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C. – Sayeed rushed to her son's Islamic day school so they could both return home, she told the news agency. When she got to the school, other women warned her to take off her headscarf, or hijab, for her own safety. She said that she now attends an interfaith prayer event each Sept. 11.
Abdul-Matin, 32, told AP that he avoids TV news on the anniversary "if it's too much of this drumbeating or warmongering, if the focus is on `what they did to us.'"
What many Americans fail to acknowledge, many Muslims say, is that those who perpetrated these evil crimes against the United States are not true Muslims at all. It’s like calling a mass murderer a Christian just because they went to church. A true Muslim, or Christian, they say, is one who lives by the principles established by the Mohammed or Jesus Christ, which call for peace and unity.