Dr. Aslam Abdullah, the imam of Jamia Masjid mosque, can't forget the morning of 9/11. Just after he finished his morning prayers, he turned on the TV and, to his surprise, saw the events of that day unfold, not knowing the price the Islamic community would later pay.
"It was the day Muslims were introduced to this country," said Abdullah, a member of the Islamic Society of Nevada. "It was a very negative introduction. Unfortunately, those people acting were not representing the Islamic community. These were satanic ideas and a distortion of Islamic faith."
Abdullah joined other Americans as they raced to donate blood to the American Red Cross.
"Many people from the (Islamic) community went out and donated blood," Abdullah said.
He organized vigils, invited his neighbors to prayer meetings and mourned the loss of thousands of lives.
"One thing people need to understand is on that day, many Muslims were killed, too," Abdullah said. "They were first responders and victims, too."
Las Vegas' Muslim community has been established since the '40s, Abdullah said, with an estimated 18,000 Muslims with diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Indian, Somali and Lebanese. Yet the word "Muslim" created fear that led the community to be targeted for hate and prejudice.
"Instead of focusing on the tragedy or combating terrorism, there was a campaign created against Muslims," Abdullah said.
Abdullah said his mosque, along with others in Las Vegas, has been vandalized many times. People in the community have been called racial slurs.
"We have gotten several phone calls telling us to go home," Abdullah said. "This is our home."
The Islamic community has watched as Muslims have been killed by vigilantes, the construction of mosques has been protested and Christian leaders have threatened to burn Qur'ans .
"People are saying (Islam) doesn't belong in America," Abdullah said. "What do they think, that Christianity was born in Washington?"
As much as Abdullah hoped that the walls would rescind over time, they haven't.
"The walls have gotten higher, actually," Abdullah said.
Ten years later, Abdullah thinks people still associate terrorism with Islam because of portrayals by media outlets and politicians.
"They are using Muslims as a scapegoat," Abdullah said.
Abdullah said well-known Republicans such as Sharron Angle and Newt Gingrich have spoken against Islam, further harboring a sense of fear.
"Gingrich likened Islam to fascism, saying it was destroying the fabric of society," Abdullah said.
Abdullah referred to Angle's run for U.S. Senate when she spoke against the Islamic community, saying it was trying to take over other communities and impose beliefs.
"You have a candidate who speaks about Sharia law and doesn't understand it, let alone how to spell it," Abdullah said. "How can anyone believe that a small percentage of the country can impose its beliefs on a democratic country?"
Despite the harsh words and hate-filled actions, Abdullah has hope this will change.
"America possesses the ability to change," Abdullah said. "America once refused to give women rights. Now women are running for office. Sixty years ago, blacks were lynched. Now a black man is president. I approach this situation with hope."
Source: Las Vegas Review Journal
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