Muslim Youth Wrestle With Post-9-11 Suspicion

September 6, 2009

Author: Peter Smith

Source: The Courier-Journal

Kareem El-Refai says he'd never heard of Osama bin Laden before the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center towers in New York collapsed in a burning heap of rubble.

He and his brother, Mostafa, sons of Egyptian immigrants who came to America and built an engineering company from scratch, were teenagers growing up among non-Muslim friends in prosperous eastern Jefferson County. They pronounce “Louisville” like the native-born citizens they are and attended good schools as they pursued degrees in medicine.

But after 9/11, Kareem's 10th-grade friends at duPont Manual High School began calling for wiping out Middle Eastern countries. Mostafa was stopped by airport screeners five times in one day. Their mother feared Muslims would be exiled from the United States.

The brothers say things have calmed since then, but they still face challenges unlike those that previous generations of Muslims encountered.

“My parents didn't have people looking down upon them like they were terrorists, like they were going to kill them,” said Kareem, now 23.

Eight years after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Muslims coming of age in the era following 9/11 era are struggling to find their place in a nation they say still views them with suspicion and fear.