Proud to Be Part of U.S.
Just two days after the terrorist attacks on America, Mehdi Alhassani
drove to his mosque in Wayland, Massachusetts, for a service.
His stomach sank when he saw a police car parked outside. But
as he grew nearer, his fears quickly disappeared.
"There was a church group holding candles outside the mosque,"
says the 18-year-old. "I was really struck by that. We all went
inside and had a discussion. It was very moving."
Although Muslims were the target of suspicious stares, threats,
and even beatings in the days following September 11, teens like
Mehdi and Satnaam Mago insist that the positive experiences have
outweighed the negative ones.
"Right after September 11, American people were understandably
shocked," says 18-year-old Satnaam of Bartlett, Illinois. "They
just wanted to lash out. They were acting first and thinking later.
Now, they are thinking about their actions."
In fact, many Americans have taken action to learn more about
the religion of Islam, a gesture that has comforted many Muslim
"There have been so many non-Muslims who have come to the mosques
to learn more, to educate themselves to try to stop the ignorance,"
says Aziza Hussain, a junior at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High
School in Massachusetts. "We've done a lot of interfaith events.
We talk about the basics of the religion and how Islam calls for
peace, tolerance, and justice."
In the wake of September 11, Aziza founded Illuminations,
a magazine for young Muslims. Each issue tackles a different theme,
from Ramadan to leadership to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The magazine, which is published four times a year, features articles,
poems, and stories written by teens.
"After September 11, I wasn't really sure of who I was," says
Aziza. "People were telling me I wasn't American. It was considered
bad to be a Muslim. I knew I wasn't the only one feeling that
way, so I wanted to do something for others who felt that way.
I wanted young Muslims to be comfortable with who they are."
Yet, venturing out to unfamiliar places can still be an uneasy
experience, despite the fact that nearly a year has passed since
the terrorist attacks.
"I wear a scarf," says Cymyrrah Mohammed, a senior at Belmont
High School in Belmont, Massachusetts. "I wear teenage clothing,
but it's all long sleeves and baggy. When I go to cities where
I don't know people, some people stop and take a second look.
Some people feel very uncomfortable."
Because teens like Cymyrrah do face unique challenges as young
Muslims, 17-year-old Azum Ali helped organize a conference in
June. Held at Harvard University, the event attracted 120 Muslim
teens from across Massachusetts. During discussions, they spoke
openly about current events, spirituality, and the future of Islam
"We heard a lot of kids come out with stories about how the speakers
made them feel good about being Muslims and inspired them," says
As he reflects on the tragic events of a year ago, Mehdi says
he is inspired by the unity and compassion Americans demonstrated
in the days, weeks, and months following September 11.
"The whole country came together," he says. "Everyone mourned
together. Everyone realized that petty differences don't really
mean anything. That was the thing I was most proud of to be an