When Osama Bin Laden brought down the Twin Towers in 2001, he instantly changed things for Muslims in America. Suddenly, it was insufficient for me to live my life as an awkward middle schooler, I also had to be an ambassador for the billion people who practiced Islam. What made my new position more difficult was a renewed wave of suspicion and animosity aimed at Muslims. Hate crimes surged after the Sept. 11 attacks, and some Muslims were victimized by bigoted acts of violence.
This bigotry was on my mind one day shortly after Sept. 11 when my dad recounted a story. A man he knew from our hometown in Georgia came up to him and told him sternly that if anyone threatened our family, we should alert him and he would take care of it personally. That might not be what you’d expect, but alongside the wave of hate crimes and animosity, millions of Muslims experienced the solidarity and compassion of their friends and neighbors.