That was in the third grade. Over a decade later in 2014 I now comprehend the past better and continue to experience and observe the implications of that one day in history. The effects of September 11 for me constitute a turning point in world history, not only as an American, but also more tangibly as a Muslim American. Luckily, I grew up in the small town of Lahaina, Hawaii, where most of the people I knew had known me since I was four years old. In such a small community, I was relatively insulated from the fear and suspicion that was immediately directed at Muslims as a result of 9/11. To my classmates, elders, and neighbors I was just Emna, just another member of the community. Labels such as religion, ethnicity, and nationality did not rise above the personality that they had known for years.
It wasn’t until high school that I realized the impact 9/11 had on people’s perceptions about Muslims. It wasn’t until then that I got sporadic, insensitive comments such as the standard, “Muslims are terrorists, are you a terrorist?” Listening to the news, the media definitely made this statement seem like this was the truth. What was even more distressing were the cases of hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims in other parts of the country and Europe. None of this made sense to me; as a Muslim I have never found any impetus for violence in my faith. Nor did I understand the mass trend of blaming almost a quarter of the entire world’s population and defaming their religion on account of a small extremist group whose acts did not represent in any way represent Islam.
These events in my life are what have motivated me to further explore my faith and learn more in order to become a good representative of my faith. As an educated and devout Muslim, I have always found that just like other world religions, Islam’s central message has always been to strive for not only inner peace through submitting to God, but to outer peace as well by establishing justice and acting with mercy towards all of humanity for a more peaceful world. My dedication to further studying my religion in order to achieve this peace is one of the main reasons I decided to major in Arabic here at Georgetown.
I also took up the study of theology because I believe that interfaith and intrafaith dialogue are both critical components towards creating understanding and peaceful relations between and within different faith and non-faith communities. My past experiences and love for my faith and its vision for peace have encouraged me to be extremely involved in Georgetown’s Muslim Students Association, as well as interfaith dialogue both on and off campus. This is what has also pushed me to be involved at the Berkley Center. The Berkley Center’s purpose directly overlaps with my own mission of clearing misconceptions and creating understanding through dialogue and education.
All religions can be misused and misinterpreted to fit an individual’s or group’s personal agenda. However, if this is not commonly understood, it only further contributes to the hatred that causes the division and strife in this world solely based on the people’s labels. For this reason, I am excited to be part of the Berkley Center and look forward to contributing to the dialogue the center has started.