Muslim-Americans share beliefs after 9/11

Sept. 9, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Some felt the religion of Islam was held accountable for the acts of a few extremists. As a result, efforts to educate and share beliefs of mainstream Muslim-Americans are being enhanced.

Some Muslim-Americans had a wake-up call on 9/11. Those who had grown up in this country feeling such a part of the fabric of American society suddenly felt separate. Some Chicagaoans took it upon themselves to remind others of their unity.

Aisha,3, and Suliman, 5, are forming their ideas of the world. That currently includes play time with video games and fairy tale costumes. Their parents, Naveed Saeed and Parveen Ahmed, want to ensure that the world will see them as individuals not only as Muslim.

After 9/11, Saeed and Ahmed noticed in subtle and not so subtle ways that their faith was misunderstood by some.

"When something like this happens you really have to re evaluate all of these things and do things a little differently," said Ahmed.

Ahmed was finishing her dental residency and the day after 9/11 a patient refused treatment.

"You may be a terrorist. I'd rather not be treated by you. I just stood there in shock at first," she said.

Raised in the Chicago suburbs by Indian immigrants, Ahmed and Saeed shifted into more mainstream activities.

"It kind made me think about what more can I myself do to be more part of society," Saeed.

The couple hosts neighborhood barbeques, raises money for charity with road races sponsor local sports teams through their medical practices.

"That's an important part to show the commonalities and show the human element," said Saeed.

"The more involved you are, the more people are comfortable feel with you. I realice that as an adult and I think I realized that right after 9/11 when that incident happened," said Ahmed.

Azam Nizamuddin was called out of his comfort zone. At the time of 9/11, he was climbing the corporate ladder as a trial lawyer. He had done some interfaith work and a friend called to have Nizamuddin speak to his congregation, but the calls kept coming.

"It went from churches to federal agencies to civic groups, Lyons Clubs, Rotary Clubs," said Nizamuddin.

Seeing the genuine interest, Nizamuddin put more time in sharing his knowledge as a Muslim and an American.

"I felt like this was an obligation like if decides to say join the army to defend the nation that was one way but I also felt this was another way," said Nizamuddin.

Nizamuddin's lecturing became a second career. He's now an adjunct professor at Loyola University in the school of theology and law school.

"As an American, as someone who has that knowledge, I think it's my responsibility to take time to learn myself and take the time to focus on this area," said Nizamuddin.

When Nizamuddin started lecturing, his third son Rasheed was a newborn, born just days after 9/11. Rasheed is about the turn 10. His father still practices law but hopes his work out side of the courts will improve understanding.

ABC7 visited these families on Eid, a holy day marking the end of Ramadan. They graciously took time from their families on the holiday to share their stories. And it's for their families they hope to broaden understanding and openness as the nation remembers the 9/11 tragedy.

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