by Julie Shaw
Philadelphia Daily News
MOEIN KHAWAJA, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is an American-born Muslim whose parents are from Pakistan.
Q: How has life changed for Muslims in Philadelphia in the 10 years since 9/11?
A: One way that life has changed culturally is that 9/11 hit us twice. First of all, our country was attacked. Muslim-Americans also died in the towers.
Also, our faith was tarnished. We’ve always wanted to share in the loss [of the people who died in the attacks] with fellow citizens, but we’ve always encountered doubt and suspicion.
My organization started in 2005 precisely because community leaders had seen an increase in backlash – in school bullying, workplace backlash.
Q: What will you do Sunday?
A: I will participate in several commemoration and remembrance ceremonies: in Rittenhouse Square [at the] “Hands Across the Square” interfaith remembrance [and at the city’s] commemoration event on Independence Mall at 5:30 p.m.
Q: 2011 is also a significant year because of Osama bin Laden’s death and the Arab Spring uprisings. What do you think of this?
A: The death of bin Laden came as a tremendous relief for me. I do think this is the beginning of the end of al Qaeda.
The Arab Spring, I think, is the more significant blow to al Qaeda. One of al Qaeda’s talking points was the U.S. suppressed you and takes away your rights. Young people rejected that.