20 years later, local Muslim leader reflects on 9/11’s aftermath

Remembering 9/11

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Imam Farid Ansari, the President, and Chaplin of the Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island, said in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, everyone was on edge.

Ansari said people began looking at Muslim Americans differently following the attacks, especially since all of the hijackers practiced Islam.

“People would lash out without having the proper information,” Ansari said. “What most Americans didn’t know about Islam is that it does not encourage that type of behavior.”

“If they knew the Islamic religion, they would know that [the hijackers] were criminals,” he added.

He said Muslim women were especially targeted because they were easier to identify.

“They cautioned the women to dress more modestly without the traditional garbs that they would wear,” Ansari said. “Traditional clothing, like Hijabs, had become symbols igniting rage and fear for some.”

Ansari said it happened not only nationally, but locally as well, adding that his wife was targeted by a man while she was out in public.

“He grabbed her by the Hijab and asked, ‘what is that?'” Ansari said.

While he wasn’t there to witness the assault, he said it left her shaken.

But not all of the reaction was negative, according to Ansari. In fact, he said many people became interested in learning more about Islam.

“It was ironic,” Ansari said. “Many places where you could find a Quran – the library, the book store – there were no Quarans to be had.”

“People were really trying to learn more about Islam and that was good,” he continued. “If there’s any positive side, it gave me an opportunity particularly to educate people about Islam.”

Despite the significant headway that’s been made over the past 20 years, Ansari said there are still remnants of confusion and hostility towards Muslims.

“It still lingers on for a lot of people,” he said.

But even so, he remains optimistic that more progress will be made in the years to come.

“I’m hoping for the best,” he said. “It’s always been my hope that some good will come out of this.”

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