I remember watching the news on Sept. 11 and being in total disbelief.

I called everyone to make sure they were OK. Whether it was my cousin who lived near the Pentagon or my best friend in Boston, just to be sure.

It didn?t occur to me that people have to point a finger.

Labels were being thrown about in the media. Every newscast was fast to guess that the terrorists were Muslim or Arab.

I watched, without even considering the impact this would have on people who happen to be from the same area ? or who have the same skin color or other cultural similarities.

Little did I know that Arabs everywhere feared for their safety because of people?s misdirected anger.

Mosques were defaced or burnt. People were harassed and beaten because of this attack.

Not only Muslims or Arabs were hurt, but ignorance also extended to Sikhs, Indians, Northern Africans, Pakistanis and anyone else who looked like they came from that part of the world stretching from Bangladesh to Morocco.

I personally faced interrogation. I was asked, ?Do you know them?? Pointing at the plane on the TV screen. I pretended they weren?t serious and ignored their question. I wanted to reply ?Well, I know this guy named Bob who lives on a farm in Idaho, do you know him?? or ?Are you buddies with Tim Mc-Veigh??

Not only did I have to face the people?s constant questioning and a few dirty looks, I also found myself explaining that Arabs come from more than 24 countries and not all Arabs are Muslims and vice versa.

Does it even matter if one is an Arab or Muslim ? how is this of importance? We all heard that Arabs and Muslims were victims of this attack as well.

Everyone knows that one person doesn?t necessarily reflect the beliefs of the masses.

The problem also took another face for Arabs. TV shows talked about Arab and Muslim Americans. But for Arabs who happen to be residing in the country for various reasons ? our issue wasn?t talked about.

Just like Americans, my heart went out to everyone who was affected by the terrorist attacks.

I am an Arab, an international student who is here for the education on a student visa and, after graduation, I return to my country in the heart of the Middle East. Does that mean that I should be discriminated against?

Some people consider America to be the land of the free ? is that only if you?re a citizen?

It would be nice if people looked beyond race before judging others. Isn?t this what America is about?

Al-Qatami can be at nalqatami@campustimes.org.



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