The last time I was at the airport, I went through security and was told that a female agent was going to come by and pat down my hijab. Passenger after passenger passed me by, picked up their stuff from the conveyer belt, and stared at me. I’m sure they were wondering what was up as I stood there for an amazingly long period of time in my socks. I never had to wait this long for a patdown before! Where was the TSA lady who was meant to make sure I left my serrated knife at home and that it wasn’t hidden in between the strands of my hair? Not allowed to move or even get to my luggage for a long period of time, I felt like I was on display and felt humiliated.
However, I’d much rather have that happen than go through any of the experiences contained in the book Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice.
Edited by Alia Malek, who also interviewed most of the people in the book, Patriot Acts compiles first hand stories from people who had been maligned to some degree due to the after effects of 9/11. The compilation has all types of stories, some worse than others, that include accounts of incarceration, bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
The first narrative sets the tone of the book rather quickly with the testimony of Adama Bah, a now 23 year-old girl who grew up in the U.S. after moving from Guinea, West Africa with her family when she was just two years old. In 2005, when she was 16, she was taken from her home along with her father and was kept in a detention center for 6 weeks for suspicion for being a terrorist. The problem was that the suspicion stemmed from nothing and she had to endure less than stellar conditions in the center, complete with strip searches, for no reason in particular. The entire episode left her jaded about the country she considered her home.
Not all of the narratives end on the same note though. Rana Sodhi, a Sikh business owner, went through the pain of losing two brothers who were murdered in hate crimes after 9/11. With all of the work and outreach he did in regards to the murders, he became inspired to think of his community at large rather than just himself.
There are probably more than a few people who get caught up in the “Kill ’em all!” mentality when they think about Arabs and Muslims. The issue is that a lot of people have suffered because of misplaced blame (and I’m just talking about those who consider America their home, not the hundreds of thousands* of innocents killed abroad in wars from the past decade). The majority of us don’t know about these stories and that’s where Patriot Acts steps in. With some of the accounts, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the narrator wasn’t able to acquire a lawyer who cut through red tape. With some of the other narratives, it’s quite evident that education is still needed in this country to curb Islamophobia, especially with the heartbreaking story of the little girl that had to deal with ignorant teachers in her district**.
At the very least, you should check out Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice to discover what has been going on in this country and whether or not any of this actually makes you safer. This book teaches us that it’s more important than ever to stay informed and educate ourselves. We can still be American patriots while still retaining our principles.
*Some sources place this figure at well over a million.