Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Muslim Teacher's Reflections on 911

A MuslimTeacher's Reflections on 911

9.11-2001   At 56, I had been a Muslim convert from Christianity for 31 years by the time that infamous day played out on the television in my 1st period class.  My students, South Central Black and Hispanic teenagers, almost totally inured to any politics other than the politics of the gang truce actually meaning an end to nearly 30 years of senseless gang wars, and them being able to walk back and forth to school without being shot (most of the boys had been shot at, or shot), born in war, hardened, yet,  not knowing what this meant... 

'Was this a Hollywood trick?' Still,  awed by the spectacle.  A horrible mistake...

"Mr. Bakeer! Whasss..?..Then, the other plane crashed, leaving them speechless, briefly, then, screams.  The newscasters quickly shaped our realities, 'America was under attack"

Anything could happen at any time.  The enemy was among us... Paranoia was running wild.  

Later that day, President Bush, assailed the heinous act, but, thankfully, cautioned against saying we were at war with Islam.  In the main, Americans showed outstanding character.

Ironically, although, anti-Muslim sentiment and actions were directed at many Muslims in the ensuing weeks,  neither I, nor my family was ever assailed or attacked.  Since I know this culture so well,  I was not surprised  that I got a pass, Allahu Akbar!

I am a Muslim American.

I can trace my lineage  here  6 generations  back on both parents' sides;   I served and was discharged honorably in the Vietnam War, and was the first avowed Muslim to run for public office in L.A. (School Board - 1979) and taught high school English in the aforementioned gang war for 30 years.. I have fought for equal rights all of my life and my family has paid ample dues, so   I feel entitled to America and expect to be treated respectfully by friend and occasional foe, even when we disagree.


Remarkably, however, I began to get more sincere questions about  Al-Islam and its practices.  And, my students' Muslim club idea spread to other public schools.  

Today, Americans are much more knowledgeable and accepting of our religion than 30 years ago  when I couldn't get off for my holidays without jeopardizing my status as a new teacher.  And, it has even become fashionable to have a Muslim name (like Hussein).