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Nashville Muslims Mark 9/11 Anniversary By Aiding New Refugees

By Dulce Torres Guzman, Tennessee Lookout

September 11, 2021 Sept. 11 holds special significance for all Americans, including the Muslim community.

Among the crowded sidewalks of 12th Avenue South, the Islamic Center of Nashville stands seemingly in contemplation of how life drastically changed the 2001 day radical terrorists flew two commercial planes onto the World Trade Center, killing nearly 3,000 people. Behind the mosque, Osama Bahloul, the imam at the center, swiftly hurried throughout the parking lot to direct workers receiving donations from visitors, some wearing hijabs and some not.

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Each year on Sept. 11, the mosque holds an event to reflect on how American society came to view Muslims after the attack.The mosque has opened its doors to the public, even after the building was vandalized multiple times. It is important to give back to society, said Bahloul, and use conversation to become better individuals. Recently, he asked several Muslim students at Vanderbilt University what came to mind when they recalled the events on Sept. 11 and was surprised to hear that they carried overwhelming guilt for events that had nothing to do with them. Even though most of the students had been born after 2001, they recalled having to constantly defend themselves and being treated poorly for being Muslim.

"It's a very challenging day for the Muslim community," Bahloul said. With this in mind, Bahloul and religious leaders of other faiths spent a week recently organizing an event to gather resources for Afghan refugees fleeing persecution from the Taliban following the fall of Afghanistan's government.

Members of churches, synagogues and mosques from the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, a faith-based organization, stopped by to drop off items a family needs to start a new life in America. Visitors dropped in and out with supplies, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper included. Volunteers organized the supplies set to be delivered to shelters across the nation, and by 1 p.m., an office space was nearly filled with hundreds of boxes. "I think it's very important to help the community and help people who helped our country," said Kirk Porter, who was working as a volunteer. Sept. 11 continues to weigh heavily in America. For the Muslim community, it's a chance to contemplate creating a better future for the next generation. This starts with accepting all that come to the U.S. seeking help, regardless of political views, said Bahloul. "I think doing this on a day like this is critical. It's a message for the Muslim community and the community at large that we are a part of the American society. It's a message that we are sending from the religious community that you can be Jewish, you can be Christian, Muslims, Hindu or other, and that we should all realize that we are all citizens of the same country," he said. And if the Afghan refugees choose to, they are welcome at the mosque, he added.

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