It has been 16 years since terrorists targeted the United States in a series of devastating attacks on September 11, 2001.
Following the attacks, which were perpetrated by Islamist extremists, many Americans and the U.S. media began to broadly demonize Muslims and Islam, blaming 1.6 billion people collectively for terrorism. This led to a significant spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes throughout the U.S.
While Muslims have fought long and hard since that day to show that Islam doesn't support terrorism, the misconceptions and Islamophobia persist. In fact, anti-Muslim hate crimes and hate groups are on the rise once again in the U.S.
So today, as we remember the sad events of Sep. 11, 2001, we'd also like to take a moment to remember two Muslim heroes and the Muslim victims who died along with nearly 3,000 others on that fateful day.
Mohammed Salman Hamdani
Mohamad Salman Hamdani wasn't supposed to be at the World Trade Center, but when he saw the smoke rising above the city, the police cadet raced toward the scene to help. His act of bravery cost him his life.
Instead of being immediately honored, Hamdani became a suspect, due to his religious background. Of course, he was inevitably cleared of any involvement and even got a street named after him in New York. But that was all after his grieving family members, who hail from Pakistan, were interrogated by police, who suggested their beloved son was somehow involved.
"They asked why my other son Adnan was head of the Muslim Students Association at his college," Hamdani's mother said. "What is the crime in that?"
In the end, Hamdani's name was completely cleared and he was recognized officially as the hero that he was.
Abdul Salam Mallahi
It was just supposed to be another normal day at work for Abdul Salam Mallahi, but instead, he died a hero.
Mallahi, who hailed from Yemen, worked at the Marriott Hotel in the World Trade Center. As people ran in panic, he courageously helped others escape to safety, losing his life in the process.
31 Muslims were killed by the terrorists
In total, it is believed that the terrorists killed 31 Muslims in the combined attacks. At least 28 Muslims were killed in the World Trade Center and three others were unfortunate passengers on the hijacked airplanes.
According to Al Arabiya, the Muslim victims hailed from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Guiana, Sri Lanka, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Yemen, Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Burma, Albania, Greece, and India.
"The oldest victim was an Iranian woman who was 69 years old, and the youngest were two 25-year-old men, Zohoto Ibis, from Tukey, and a Pakistani, Khaled Shahid," Al Arabiya says.
Globally, Muslims are the biggest victims of terrorism
While Islam is often unfairly associated directly with terrorism, the irony is that Muslims are actually the biggest victims of terrorism worldwide. Even U.S. President Donald Trump pointed this out in his speech in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
"In sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim, and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence," Trump said, highlighting the need to jointly confront global terrorism.
The primary victims of extremists groups such as Daesh – which 70,000 Islamic clerics officially condemned in a fatwa in 2015 – are Muslims. The atrocities carried out in the West, from Nice to Berlin to Orlando, are only a small fraction compared to the gruesome slaughter terrorism has brought to Syria and Iraq, as well as other Arab countries and Muslim countries.
Yet the Islamophobic rhetoric in the West persists, blaming Muslims collectively for terrorism. They are told to change the way they dress. They are kicked off planes for speaking Arabic. Even Muslim children are eyed with suspicion and arrested when they bring impressive inventions to school.
Muslims are thus killed by terrorists in one part of the world and then demonized in another. As we remember the somber events of 2001, we must also remember that Muslims are victims and heroes in the fight against extremism and terror.