“At 14 years old I was scared. I was scared like the rest of the country. I was scared like the rest of the world," remembered Faiyaz Jaffer. He was in the ninth grade when the September 11th attacks happened. As one of the only muslim students in his high school, he says the bullying started almost immediately.
What You Need To Know
- The Council on American Islamic relations is trying to help educators be mindful by releasing a guide on teaching September 11th in diverse classrooms
- Faiyaz Jaffer says he remembers being bullied in high school immediately after the attacks
- CAIR leaders say there's usually a spike in complaints from families and students around the anniversaries of September 11th
"I began to hear just about every single possible insult under the sky during the course of that day, during the course of that week, getting like pushed into lockers when you're walking in the hallway," said Jaffer.
He’s now an associate chaplain at the Islamic Center at NYU. Jaffer said his house was even vandalized, remembering the rhetoric he says teachers and administrators used. He believes it made him a target.
"It was stated by our teachers very often throughout the day that these were, this was an act by by muslim terrorists," said Jaffer.
With 2021 marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks, the Council on American Islamic relations is trying to help educators be mindful by releasing a guide on teaching September 11th in diverse classrooms. Some tips include avoiding singling out muslim students to comment on the attacks or to simulate roles of perpetrators or targets. And terms like “Islamic terrorists” or “jihadists" should be off limits.
"Discussing 9/11 is extremely important, it is a part of our history and especially here in New York, it's a very personal history for so many of us, just as imporant is a teacher’s responsibility to be aware of the islamophobic context that is often correlated with 9/11," said Afaf Nasher, the executive director of Cair's New York.
Nasher has also experienced Islamophobia first hand and says there's usually a spike in complaints from families and students around the anniversaries of September 11th.
"We have had now full grown adults who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 saying that it was commonplace for them to be called terrorist by their peers at school," said Nasher.
Faiyaz says he's hopes the guide helps and that today's students won't feel the added pressure and fear that he endured as a kid after the attacks.
“It's been 20 years. If we have made strides, they're so small and they're so incremental and there's a need for that much more work to be done," said Jaffer.