CAIRO – A decade ago, the few hours in 9/11 morning shifted the lives of a generation of Muslim teenagers in the North American continent, facing the backlash of a changing world view of Islam.
“At the time, I didn’t think it was going to be such a defining event in my generation,” Naved Bakali, a 29-year-old high school teacher at Heritage Regional High School in St. Hubert, told the Montreal Gazette.
The then 19-year-old accounting student at Concordia University wake up in 9/11 morning to face the devastating news about the attacks on US world trade center.
Concentrating on the tragedy, the Canadian Muslim could not think that the attacks, thousands of miles away, would affect his life.
Fear, suspicion, job discrimination and racial profiling were the main aspects that summed the lives of Muslims over the past decade.
“For Muslims, there’s always post-9/11,” Bakali said.
“For example, the Muslim community got so much more exposure in the media after that event.
“So for Muslims, a lot of things changed after that event,” he said.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Canadian parliament passed tough laws to fight terrorism.
Under one provisions of the laws, police had the power to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges.
Another provision allowed a judge to compel a witness to testify in secret about past associations or perhaps pending acts under penalty of going to jail if the witness didn't comply.
Last week, the Canadian Prime Minister angered Muslims after associating them with terrorism as well as declaring plans to reintroduce draconian anti-terror powers.
Though Islamophobia existed before the terrorist attacks, Muslims see that 9/11 allowed anti-Muslim bigotry to spread.
“The impact (of 9/11) is profound,” said Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it made it easy for people who harbour bigotry to use 9/11 to advance their own interests,” he said.
For Muslim young adults, the blame was so hard.
“The blame is so pervasive,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
“It has affected the lives of these youth. And there are loads and loads of examples.”
Moreover, the 9/11 attacks ushered in a painful identity crisis, Hogben said.
“They’re having to define their identity. This has in a sense been forced on them. So it’s a mixture of ‘Who am I?’ that we all go through, but this one is ‘Who am I in relation to the world around me?’ ” she said.
“So they say, ‘I’m going to leave Islam or just have nothing to do with it.’ Or they become very religious. Or they become, if not religious in practice, strongly identified with Muslims.”
Yet, a survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
“You can be a Muslim and you can be from the Indian subcontinent, or you can be a Muslim and an Arab, you still can be all that and be Canadian,” Hogben said
“But what a lot of them are doing is they’re only picking one,” she said.
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