VIDEO: Muslims Discuss Unshaken Faith
Local Muslims discuss experiences since the September 11 attacks.
This story is part of a Patch series examining the Muslim experience 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Read other stories in the series here.
Ten years after 9/11, Mohammed Saiduzzaman is still getting used to the looks some non-Muslims give him -- the raised eyebrows, the suspicious stares.
"[It's] like we have done something wrong," he explained.
Saiduzzaman and Mir Shamsuddin, two prominent local Muslims, sat down recently at a roundtable with Patch to discuss their experiences since the September 11 attacks.
Skokie resident Mir Shamsuddin, a retired professor of medicine at Northwestern University, was accompanied by Saiduzzaman, president of the Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid and Community Center, in a joint interview at the center in northwest Evanston.
Dar-us-Sunnah serves many Skokie Muslims who lack a mosque or community center in the village proper.
Faith always the centerpiece
Strong faith carried Saiduzzaman and Shamsuddin before 9/11, and remained significant after, even in the face of hostility from others, they said.
“My faith hasn’t been shaken,” said Saiduzzaman, a resident of Chicago’s Sauganash neighborhood who emigrated from Bangladesh after high school. He had lived here 20-years in September of 2001.
“Before 9/11, I was a Muslim, and this society did not treat me any differently (because) of who I was," Saiduzzaman explained. "After 9/11 … some people looked slightly differently or raised their eyebrows."
Though Shamsuddin is originally from India, he has lived in the United States for 36 years, had a 27-year tenure teaching at Northwestern and was a board member of the East Prairie School District for nine. So when the World Trade Center fell in 2001, he viewed the tragedy from the perspective of an American.
“I felt this is my country and it was attacked by people for whatever reason,” he said. “If some of my country-people … related it to religion, that is the thing that is very sad.”
From Mohammed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Saiduzzaman's wife, Naseem, a longtime employee of the Chicago Public Library system, has fielded uncomplimentary comments about her traditional Islamic dress when in public, which includes the standard head covering for females. But Saiduzzaman has taken cues from Martin Luther King, Jr. in addition to the prophet Mohammed.
“We believed that we cannot respond with hate against the ignorance of someone,” Saiduzzaman said. “I graduated from school here. I got married here. I raised my kid over here. I know this society inside-out. … Those people simply misunderstood."
For Shamsuddin, the aftermath of 9/11 provided a teaching opportunity that reaches far beyond the classroom.
“This is a test for the Muslims and non-Muslims — how we behave and how we tolerate the mistakes of other people,” he said.
Saiduzzaman and Shamsuddin agree that getting non-Muslims to become more tolerant of Muslims in America means changing the way the Quran has been interpreted by some in the wake of 9/11 as a text that encourages violence.
“All the Scriptures are victims of misinterpretation and manipulation, using them as ammunition against something or in favor of something,” Saiduzzaman said. “9/11 was a test for the Quran as one of the Holy Scriptures in existence."
It's a test that Saiduzzaman is confident the text will eventually pass.
"The truth survives all tests."
Dar-us-Sunnah will mark the 9/11 anniversary with a rally seeking to continue the informative effort of Shamsuddin and Saiduzzaman.