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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
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
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
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,