For many American Muslims, the 9/11 attacks had far-reaching effects, changing their lives forever, and finding themselves forced to experience fear, hatred and prejudice against Islam.
Narrating her Muslim community’s experience, Saadia Faruqi, an American author and interfaith activist has released a new novel titled “Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero.”
The novel features a middle school student in Texas who deals with Islamaphobia as the United States marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“For young readers, their whole life was shaped by 9/11. If they’re Muslim, or brown and look like they’re Muslim, they are treated like they’re the “enemy”,” Faruqi told The Washington Post.
“A lot of their parents have experienced discrimination at their jobs or lost friends. They’re on the receiving end of this hatred.
“I wanted to show what happens when the entire country is living in post-9/11 trauma: why there’s surveillance, and airport security, of how, if you’re Muslim you (aren’t considered) a patriot.”
On 9/11 2001, Faruqi was in Florida studying for her bachelor’s degree. As she did not wear hijab at the time, she was able to blend and avoid being stereotyped.
“I didn’t wear a hijab then, so I blended in. But if I had been in middle school or high school it would have been pretty awful, like it was for so many people I interviewed when I was writing the book.”
Describing the Muslim kids’ trauma of having to deal with the attacks and how people treated them after 9/11, Faruqi hopes children get the message of her book.
“I hope (kids who are like Yusuf) get the message to be strong and understand what are the motivations for people (being racist). Yusuf has to finally stand up to his bullies, not only his age but adults, too,” she said.
“If you are not from the Muslim community, I hope reading the book can offer some tools to help neighbors who are going through discrimination, how to be allies, how to make sure you’re not one of those people causing hurt.
“It’s a sad book; really bad things happen. But the end is happy and hopeful. I believe the worst things are managed by the loving work you do and the actions you take.”
Despite rising Islamophobia in the US, the Muslim writer still has hopes for a better future.
“I believe we can address these things by talking to people and learning about people who are different from us. Reading books, meeting people from other cultures, asking how things are. Those things go a long way,” she said.