This speech was given by Esma Arslan on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 in her Hawaii high school.
On September 11th 2001, the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. But that is not what we are here to remember today.
We are here to remember how our nation rose from the ashes after an attack to the heart of America. We are here to remember how every race and religion came together as one to pull through the losses.
In 2001 I was only six years old. I doubt any of us students really even remember that day. The real test of faith for me began in 2007 when I made a choice to wear the headscarf, also my first year at Iolani. I was talked about, certainly, and some people even approached me with their questions. They were curious about the strangest things. Someone once asked me if I spoke Muslim. Muslims are part of a religion. You cannot speak it. They asked me if I was oppressed, if I would have an arranged marriage, if I was hiding a bomb under my scarf, or if I was bald, which is not true by the way.
After 9/11, people almost unconsciously categorized, stereotyped, and condemned the Islamic world. They said we promoted terrorism, that killing was a part of our jihad. Jihad is not defined as serving your religion. Jihad is a personal test of faith, to do what you believe makes you worthy in the eyes of god. There are days when I feel like hiding under a rock, because I don’t want to be judged for the way I dress or pray or live my life.
9/11 left New York City in devastation and pain, broke friendships between different religions, created an economic crisis, but that doesn’t even matter. What matters is how we dealt with it then and how we are still dealing with it today. There are a lot of misconceptions about Muslim people. That is why I am here. If there is any way that I can help the world understand more about the difference between Muslims and terrorists, count me in. Because that is how we overcome prejudice, by learning about each other.
So let me introduce myself. My name is Esma Arslan, brown hair, brown eyes, born in Pennsylvania, 1995, class of 2013. I believe that there is something to learn from everything that happens in our lives. We are America because of the choices we make and the consequences we learn from. Almost 3,000 people died that day. Some of those people were Christian, some of them were Buddhist, some of them were Atheist and some of them were Muslims. It’s just like president Obama said, “There’s no them and us — it’s just us.”
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