The people featured in this package suffered personal loss from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, endured fallout from them, or worked in fields that evolved in a world changed by them. Their stories, shared with Eagle reporter Fred Mann, are presented here in their own words.
Hussam Madi, a small business owner and a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Wichita, talks about what it was like for Muslims after the attacks.
“I was teaching at Butler County Community College and did not catch the news that morning. As I got to the school, people were gathered around some monitors in a state of shock. Nobody knew what was going on. But it was scary. TV started displaying ‘America Under Attack.’ Fingers were starting to point very quickly to Muslims and Islam.
“Muslims that followed the faith were sad because the faith was tarnished and hijacked for a small group. It was a tough battle uphill trying to explain otherwise all these years. It was real difficult. But because we have nothing to hide, or nothing to be afraid of, in this religion, we didn’t crawl and hide behind rocks. We came out to the community. It was difficult trying to overcome the backlash. A lot of times, out of ignorance, people just act hateful.
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“My wife experienced more than I did, with some shouted slurs and obscene gestures. Our ladies and our women suffered more than male Muslim Americans. We’re not identified as much as our Muslim ladies because they wear head scarves
“Some college students tore the scarves off ladies’ heads. It’s sad and frustrating and requires a lot of patience.
“Bigger cities had bigger backlashes than we did. We try to be role models in this community by obeying the law, showing good character. Wichita’s always been very good to the Muslim community. We have a very highly educated community. You see a lot of doctors that are of the Muslim faith. That probably helped, along with all the engineers in the aircraft industry. I think that played a role in us reaching out to the community. As we have gone down the road, we have come a long way, and have proved ourselves good abiding citizens of this country.
“If anything came out of that incident, it is that it has strengthened our ties with the rest of the community. We showed that we are a vital part of the city of Wichita along with the USA.
“It intensified other groups’ outreach to us to come and show their people that we are just regular American citizens that practice a faith that is all peaceful.
“We are all human. You might not like what is said or heard, or something that’s said on TV that just bashes you all the time and puts you down all the time. But you just keep going. We must get through this together as a country.”