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Coping With 9/11 As A Young Adult

Coping With 9/11 As A Young Adult
Written by Madiha Tahseen, Ph.D. Acknowledgments: Mariam Rasheed, MSW; Fatyma Karamoko, B.A. On September 11th, 2001, the world mourned the loss of life and destruction. It was also a pivotal moment in the history of Muslims in the U.S. and across the world. As a young adult today, you may not be aware of how much life changed for Muslims then and now. Anyone identifiably Muslim joined the list of communities singled out amidst a rise in hate crimes, expansive national security and surveillance policies, and an overwhelming sense of otherness and being “Un-American”. The Muslim community experienced their religious identities come under attack similar to the Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims of Mecca. As the world remembers that day, there may be a rise in hate crimes and anxiety, as well as the desire to counter-narratives you may hear in the media. In this guide, we provide strategies to help you cope as well as resources that can be used to educate yourself and share with others. 

Process your emotions

You may be feeling anxious about potential hate incidents, worrying about your safety or getting re-triggered by the media.

  • Use coping strategies that work for you when dealing with stress and anxiety
  • Take a break – including unplugging from news and social media, and take care of yourself.
  • Focus on what you can control
  • Lean on your support system–reach out to people who can help you process your thoughts and feelings.
  • Prioritize your self-care
  • Maintain your meals, sleep, and quality time
  • Journaling or drawing one’s feelings can ease the mind
  • Try any kind of physical activity
  • Engage in serving the community
Muslim Wellness Foundation is doing a three-part workshop series on “Coping with 9/11 & the trauma of Islamophobia”–check it out!

Use the opportunity to educate yourself and others

Muslims experienced the aftermath of 9/11 in many different ways–even to this day. Some experienced negative emotions (anxiety, hate) and incidents (Islamophobic acts). Others felt the need to defend Islam and counter the anti-Muslim narrative. Share the resources below with those in your life who may benefit, such as your teachers/professors, counselor, employers and friends. As a young adult, the events and aftermath of 9/11 may not be part of your childhood. But, it has certainly impacted your life as a Muslim American. Use the resources below to educate yourself as well. Reading or watching too much content about 9-11 can be stressful and triggering–make sure you center your well-being. 

  • Share the following resources on the rise of Islamophobia and related policies after 9/11.
  • Watch and share these videos about how Muslims have had to shoulder the burden of anti-Muslim narratives: ↓
  • For teachers or professors, you can also share:
  • A letter to school leadership
  • Tips for teaching lesson plans about 9-11
  • Educational resources that teachers can reference
  • The FYI’s bullying resources:

Recognize the impact on Muslim identity

In the aftermath of 9/11, the identity of Muslim Americans became under seige. Questions like “Am I american” “Can I be Muslim in this country” “Can I be both” became part of the daily struggles of many Muslims. Such questioning still exists today–perhaps you have had to answer questions like these in your schools and workplaces. 

  • Resenting our religious practices or traditions
  • Learning to laugh along with racist jokes
  • Adopting less “Muslim” sounding names
  • Needing to prove your American-ness
  • Share these resources with your professors or teachers about the impact of 9-11 on Muslim identities specifically: ↓

Channel your energy!

When we feel helpless about a situation, we can end up feeling cynical and angry. However, taking action that matters can help us to feel empowered. Use the energy that Allah (SWT) has blessed you within your youth and channel it for change! 

  • Recognize that some communities are at more risk—children and families who have experienced trauma or loss are at higher risk of experiencing distress

Policies enacted after 9/11 are just the latest rendition of policies inspired by xenophobic and white-supremacist ideologies that many Black Muslims have been experiencing since the foundation of this country. Post 9/11 policies just expanded the experience to a broader population of non-Black Muslims. 

Supporting others around you

You may find yourself having to provide support to others around you, either friends who lost loved ones or were impacted by anti-Muslim hate. Incorporate the following strategies in your conversations with them:

  • Use active listening skills
  • Validate how they feel- “You feel hurt when they…?”
  • Pay attention to their nonverbal behavior and body language.
  • Ask open ended questions (“How does this make you feel?”)
  • Check your own emotions in these conversations–take a break if you need to.
  • “Islamic terrorists,” “jihadists,” or “radical Islamic terrorists.”
  • This language validates the claims of the 9/11 attackers by associating their acts of mass murder with Islam and Muslims.
  • “Terrorism” for everything.
  • There is much disagreement about what terrorism means and it’s often used in a biased manner
  • Instead, use exact terms: white supremacist, surveillance, acts of mass violence
  • Use “the endless wars”.
  • The term “endless wars” captures the Iraq, Afghanistan, and other ongoing physical wars, as well as the never-ending harm inflicted upon innocent Black and brown people.
  • It reinforces the fact that the wars abroad and at home have no clear target, and only harm Black and Brown communities.
  • Center compassion
  • Model compassion in your interactions with those who have lost loved ones or were personally affected by 9-11.
  • Learn about the rise in kindness and compassion after 9-11
The Holy Qu’ran says: “Verily, with every hardship, comes ease” [94:5].

Although 9-11 changed the world, and laid the foundation for many of the policies that impact your life today, it is also a teachable and character-building moment. After we’ve processed our emotions and engaged in self-care, it is a chance for us to represent Islam in our manners and character–to show the resilience and thriving nature of the Muslim community. Allah (SWT) is in full control and is the best of planners. We are being tested to see how we will react. Let’s answer the test with islam (practice/submission), iman (faith), and ihsaan (excellence).

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).