It took four planes to determine the fate of millions of ordinary people across the world.  The first two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York, the third into the  western section of the pentagon building and the fourth crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.  Today's date, when merely spoken of, transports people back to Tuesday 11th September 2001- they know exactly where they were, who they were with and how it made them feel. Innocent civilians lost their lives, and the lives of ordinary Muslims including those who were children, teens and young adults lost the pivotal part of being young which is the privilege of being carelessly innocent. Today is the 20th anniversary of the tragic event in which this article will explore the personal experiences of Muslim millennials who grew up in a post 9/11 world.

One kid said “you paki terrorist”. Kids threw chewing gum in my hair on the bus. I was also called “Bin-Laden's Wife.”

Ayisha, 30
“Just before 9/11, I had started high-school and was already scared about normal things such as fitting in with my new classmates and dealing with kids twice the size of me. It was an all white- working class school. I was the only brown face in a school full of white children. I heard for the very first time, words of “paki go home” I was shocked. I felt so hurt but didn’t know how to talk about this as an 11 year old. Then 9/11 hit. I already thought life as a British Pakistani was hard enough. Then life changed literally overnight. The next day at school, I was stared at. One kid said “you paki terrorist”. Kids threw chewing gum in my hair on the bus. I was also called “Bin-Laden's Wife.”

In another incident one boy in my year spat on me and told me to “go home.” Outside of school a group of kids from my school shouted “paki terrorist” and they threw empty cans of beer at me and pushed me to the floor. They also kicked me whilst I was down. I have not walked down that road since - I have been too scared. After that incident, I also became too scared to go on a bus if my friends were not around. I would choose to walk 30 minutes home instead of enduring the bullying/racism on the bus. Unfortunately, at that age, I did not know this was abuse. I did not ever report it, I did not ever speak about it. I told a teacher about the racist remarks, but nothing really happened.”

Neelam, 30
“I was 10 years old and when I got home from school my mum was robotically watching TV. Those images kept rolling and rolling in my mind and I could not shake them off nor could I unhear my parents whisper about “they will blame us” or “how do they know it was Muslims?” As an autistic child, unlike my brother who continued unaware, my observations were detailed and unsettling and the background murmur began to raise questions and fear. I was no longer just a kid whose parents were British-Pakistanis, but now we were Muslims. This is how the world would see and hear us from then on. I was forced to navigate growing up in a post-9/11 world. The following day, teachers at my primary school didn’t say anything but I could feel that they viewed us differently. They didn’t need to say or do anything, but it was clear that they did not view us as the same kids they had taught yesterday.

As a millennial, I had to understand and combat Islamophobia. I would worry if my dad would get through airport security and if my mum would be safe going into her own city centre. I didn’t have the privilege of being a teenager worrying just about friendships, popstars, and whether I could go to Glastonbury when I was older. Instead, I dissected American foreign policy and its impact on my family and trying to understand why the crimes were carried out on 9/11. That is not what being young is about, it’s about finding out who you are with all the teen angst and silliness added, however my experience (and I’m sure the experience of many British-Muslims my age) was not that.”

Hadia, 22
“I was not even 3 years old when 9/11 happened. So, naturally I do not have any memories of the attack, or how life would change for Muslims in everyday society. However, despite not remembering the incident, I have seen how society and wider politics have been influenced by the terror attacks, as I remember growing up hearing about the ‘War on Terror’, and its impact on countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq - which are still suffering the repercussions even today. I have grown up seeing how Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate / stereotypes was often stemmed from the events of 9/11.Even today, in a post 9/11 world, we are reminded of the implications that this has had on Muslims through the added security measures / checks that we have to go through at airports, and we are often singled out. As I grew up post 9/11, I am often left wondering how life was like before, and whether we were always somewhat alienated in society?”

I don’t think I will ever forget that day, because that was the first time I felt there was an ‘us and them.’

Salma, 37
“I was nearly 18 at the time and at college. When I went to my call centre job after 9/11. I noticed there was tension. There was a time we all had a laugh and got on with our job. That day, there was a divide. My colleagues felt we should take a side and if you were Muslim you had to SAY which side by declaring that you condemn this ‘act of terror.’ Clearly everyone would condemn this horrifying act of terror against innocent people, regardless of their faith or race or anything else. I remember seeing faces of Muslim colleagues just confused and frustrated as to why we were being held responsible for this. People began talking about us/them openly, and that ‘we are to blame.’ I don’t think I will ever forget that day, because that was the first time I felt there was an ‘us and them’. That I was different. That whenever something bad happens, I have to declare which side I am on as this was no longer assumed. I experienced my first direct racism and Islamophobia, and I was scared.”

Rizwana, 25
“I was aged 5 when the attack happened, and I was fortunate enough to be sheltered from the rise of Islamophobia that followed until I reached my late teens. I saw and continue to see the effects of the aftermath with the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media, the dehumanisation and villainising of Muslims.9/11 was a tragic day for so many and as the 20th anniversary approaches, I hope people reflect and listen to one another as what seems to be forgotten is what came after the attack, which was the destabilisation of governments, the callous destruction of motherlands and the murder of innocent Muslim lives including those mistaken for being Muslim.”

Aaliyah, 19
“I didn’t know what life was like for Muslims before 9/11 because I was born the year after it happened. I have grown with the norm of Muslims being viewed as terrorists. I did not understand why that was and only found out about 9/11 a decade later when I was around 10 years old. I have grown up with an impression from media that white people don’t like Muslims. It has become standard practice to call Muslims names. It’s not nice that people like me are considered as terrorists. I see terrorism carried out by white men such as mass shootings but they are not highlighted in the same way. No one assumes all white men or even people are dangerous.”

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