91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Getting a Fair Shake
By Steph Smith
Reprinted from Scholastic News Senior Edition, October 10, 2001

Arab- and Muslim-Americans face discrimination after terrorists attack the U.S.

Imagine if you were being picked on because you had the same ethnic background or religion of someone who had committed a terrible crime.

That is a reality for many Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Why? Suspects in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are Arabs and Muslims. Because of this, some people have turned on their fellow Americans who are Muslim or are of Arab or Middle Eastern descent.

"People look at me and give me dirty looks," says Shifa Almontaser, a 13-year-old Arab-American girl from Brooklyn, New York. "I am proud of who I am, and I am not a terrorist."

Muslims are followers of the religion Islam. About 6 million Americans are Muslim, and Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States, according to the U.S. State Department.

After last month's attacks, several mosques (mosks), places where Muslims worship, and Arab-American-owned businesses received threats. People were harassed as they walked on the street. At least two people were killed in what may have been hate crimes, police said.

Many Muslims have been afraid to wear religious dress, such as the head coverings or scarves some women wear. Some people have been afraid to attend school or leave their neighborhoods.

Aziza Hussain, 15, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, says that most of her classmates at school have been very understanding.

"But there are definitely a few kids who look at me differently," she says. "Islam isn't about terrorism. It isn't about killing people."

President George W. Bush visited a mosque in Washington in the days after the terrorist attacks.

"America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens,'' he said. "They need to be treated with respect."