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Solidarity and fear, the legacy of 9/11 in local Muslim community

Keith Seinfeld
Jeff Siddiqui, photographed at his home in Lynnwood, Wash., wonders when Muslims will be treated as "American" as everyone else.

“Right after nine-eleven there was a peak of hostility toward Muslims. It kind of went down a bit, but over the years it’s gone up again.”

That’s how local Muslim-American Jeff (Jaffar) Siddiqui summarizes the decade since the Sept. 11th attacks.

Siddiqui, a civil rights activist (who also sells real estate), came to the Seattle area from Pakistan in the 1970’s to study aeronautical engineering, and he stayed because he fell in love and married a local woman. He was involved in civil rights issues before September 11th, but he says these issues have dominated his life since then.

Below are excerpts from the audio interview at the top of the story:

Siddiqui on what it was like the morning of Sept. 11, 2001:

“Suddenly it was like my stomach had been tied in a knot, and I thought, ‘Oh dear God, don’t let any Muslim be involved in this thing.”

On the solidarity he felt in the aftermath:

“What was wonderful is churches and synagogues got together, and they organized around the clock vigils around mosques, to make sure no one came and attacked a mosque. It was the most touching thing I have experienced. I remember in winter, in November or December, I would be driving by the Northgate mosque, and there would be these two or three people standing outside, holding onto a hot cup of coffee for dear life – at night.”

On the ongoing hostility toward Muslims:

“My children have experienced open hostility from teachers who in their class have said, 'Don’t make friends with Muslims, because they are sleeper cells.' This is in my daughter’s school!”

On the legacy of fear from 9/11:

“These days we are less afraid of … the normal person on street. ... The Muslim population is literally, and I'm using the word carefully, terrified of our government. We are terrified of the police, the FBI, the CIA, the military, the administration, the politicans.”
“We assume that every single mosque has at least one or two informants … agents provocateurs.”

Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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