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Category: International, Race/Ethnicity

September 12th—The Long Day After

| September 14, 2009

Dancing at the UN to a rock version of a Sufi hymn Photo by Zara R. Atal

The author, a Pakistan-born New Yorker, connects our collective sorrow on 9/11 to what terrorism and its aftermath continue to take away. 

It’s the day after; the rest of New York has mourned, commemorated, sung hymns and gone back to what New York does best—making money and enjoying what it buys.

Yet a sense of edginess hangs over us, New York’s Muslims. For us the day after lingers across the years. It’s the extra grope at the airport checkout, the eyebrow raised as they swipe your passport and sometimes add, “so where’s home?” the nervousness on the subway if you join the Orthodox man reading his Torah with your own swirling calligraphy. It’s the Allahs taken off the daily-worn chain to be brought out on special occasions, the names shortened, Anglicized—Mohammed becoming Mo.

There is no respite when you go half way back in time across the world “home” to Pakistan. It starts at the airport, you with the blue passport, Bush was your President, we don’t care blue or red state, your policy hasn’t changed, you are still bombing us. Are you Pakistani or American? How can we choose, we love both, as a child loves both parents, but the answer does not satisfy.

We the liberal, secular Muslims have been under siege since September 11th.

Most just retreat behind their frenetic careers and even more frenetic social lives, “coming out” at the end of Ramadan for a collective, hurried prayer.

Some will use their voices and their pens to protest what the real Islam is meant to be hoping both our audiences in the skyscrapers here and the minarets there are listening.

There are small victories this September 12th; the mug shot in the New York Times of the finally arrested Taliban commander who had the 17-year old girl flogged; the concert by Junoon, a Sufi rock group performing at the United Nations for the internally displaced of Swat. We post these on our Facebook and Twitter pages as markers of our struggle to regain place in our horizontal worlds held together by the day into night flights of Pakistan International Airlines.

The 20-year celebrations of the fall of the Berlin wall have already started. But there is not much to celebrate in the mountains and valleys where Afghans and Pakistanis were the eastern flank that brought the Red Army to its knees. Poland’s was not the only Solidarity.

My daughter sang with the Young People’s Chorus at St. Patrick’s on September 11th, a very moving performance. She asked me the next day, “people were going up to say sorry for your loss to those who lost loved ones, why does no one say I’m sorry for your loss to us? We are still living in the long day after.”