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I wrote this article for the State Press, the Arizona State University newspaper. It was published on September 11, 2002.

Grad student uncomfortable with America's attack on Afghanistan

Everyone has a story about where they were when it all happened and what their first emotions were. I have another story: where I was when America launched its war against terrorism.

Leaving home in India to pursue my doctoral education in the United States was nowhere close to the alienation and discomfort I felt when the president of America began his international campaign for support to bomb Afghanistan.

Here was a country that was already destroyed by war and an oppressive regime. Worse still, a large percentage of U.S. citizens supported this endeavor. The quantifiable result: more Afghan civilian lives lost than the combined loss of lives on Sept. 11, 2001. The often-overlooked result of this war was the confusion between terrorism and Islam in the minds of people I met.

My faith, something that was very personal to me, was put under the microscope. From the little knowledge of Islam that people gained after Sept. 11, 2001, something very dear to my heart became the basis of a prejudice. As a Muslim, I was expected to hate America and the West.

After the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the suspicion and dislike for the followers of Islam was very evident. Even Indians and Pakistanis who "look" different were affected. Every fifth person in the world is a Muslim; yet, very few Americans actually understand Islam, its values and beliefs. Why does the mention of terrorism remind us of Islamic fundamentalism, but Nazism is not associated with Christianity?

The days after Sept. 11, 2001, I would overhear people asking each other: "Why do they hate us?" and I would want to scream out: "Who are the 'they' you talk about?"

On this day of remembrance, lets ask instead: "How can I make 'them' love us?"

I come from an ancient culture that survived only because it changed.

With every invasion and trade transaction involving foreigners, we learned and grew.

On the contrary, it seems that many people of this country chose to distance themselves from others unlike them, by forming strong prejudices or apathy. Ask the black American or the Japanese about yesterday. Ask the Muslim about today.

- Mujtaba Khambatti, September 2002

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