COLUMBUS (WCMH) — While the 20th anniversary of 9/11 came and went, the impacts felt in the immediate aftermath of the tragic event are still being experienced for one group of people.
“It was a very emotionally charged event,” recalls Tala Dahbour. “Even as a little kid, you can kind of interpret how tragic the situation is.”
As an 8-year-old girl at the time, Dahbour still recalls the events of 9/11 vividly.
“I remember being very fearful,” she said. “I had an aunt that was visiting from overseas, and we canceled her flight to leave for her safety.”
While she experienced the same emotions as Americans from coast to coast and across the world, it’s what was to come in the immediate aftermath that isolated many Muslim-Americans like herself.
“The older I got, the more you’re able to see that, ‘Wow, people do truly believe in stereotypes,’ and that manifests in many ways,” Dahbour said.
At a young age, it was hard for her to process how the perception of an entire group of people shifted overnight — in schools, workplaces, and everyday life.
“You can view yourself as part of the community, born and raised with the same people, and yet they see you as ‘other,'” Dahbour explains. “And that’s very confusing for students, it’s very confusing for children who grew up here in America just like everyone else. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you’re integrated into the community, they will still view you as the other.”
From 2016-2020, 60 percent of Muslims reported feelings of discrimination. Hundreds more have sought out The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Ohio) this year alone.
As one of the largest Muslim civil rights groups in the state, CAIR is working to break those stereotypes.
“Micro-aggressions occur on a daily basis, depending on where you live and where you are,” Dahbour said. “People will ask you questions about how safe it is to visit your family, assuming the entire Middle East is a war zone. They just make assumptions and I’m asked these things regularly all the time.”
This past weekend, CAIR-Ohio put out a tool kit to educators in central Ohio about how to approach the topic of 9/11 in a sensitive manner.
The organization continues to provide services to those bullied in school, and all Muslims who experience the discriminations they still face in their everyday lives.
For leaders in their community, it all starts with people in power — particularly those teaching young children.
“If you’re going to be in a classroom discussion about the topic, is your educator prepared to ensure that they’re not going to perpetuate the same stereotypes you’ve experienced your entire life?” Dahbour asked.