IM FiaSe br9 21 /1SpeilCo m mraieEdt
International students strive to find
peace in a severed post 9/11 world.
BY BRIENNE PRUSAK
Like many children around
the world on Sept. 11, 2001,
11-year-old Wan Aisyah was
getting ready for school before
mayhem struck in lower Man-
hattan and Washington D.C.
But unlike many children whose lives
were changed that day because their par-
ents were the victims of the catastrophic
attack, Aisyah's life did not change much.
That is until he left his home country of
Malaysia to go to college in the United
Sates - at the University.
"September 11 didn't cause much stir in
my life until I left for the U.S. in 2008 to
study at the University," said Aisyah, an
LSA senior. "That was when I first realized
that my identity as a Muslim is strongly
linked to the September 11 event, although
I wasn't from the Middle East nor affiliated
with any political parties."
Aisyah is one of many international stu-
dents at the University who have felt the
ripple effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Whether they've been questioned about
their religious identification, seen their
country divide because of people's beliefs
or faced challenges attaining jobs in the
U.S. because of their immigration status,
international students have - like many
people around the world - experienced the
effects of that day that changed not only
the U.S. but every country on the globe.
Aisyah said he has seen the assumptions
people make as a result of 9/11about people
who identify with the Islam religion.
"I feel like there's a bigger sense of
responsibility now as a Muslim to clear
up the misconceptions that the world has
towards Islam," he said. "There has never
been an issue of extremist activities among
Malaysian Muslims, but people tend to
label you negatively just because of the
Muslim label we wear."
Because of these misconceptions, Aisyah
has taken it upon himself to make students
on campus more aware of the injustice that
the closed-mindedness brings. The reper-
cussions of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have
also fed his drive for success.
"Just because of the simple misunder-
standings, feelings of hatred began to
arise between both sides - the Muslims
and the non-Muslims," Aisyah said. "9/11
had shaped my career goals in motivating
myself to become the bridge that help(s)
both sides of the party gain better under-
standing towards each other."
Aisyah has also found that many people
on campus are more curious than fearful of
his religious identity and have asked ques-
tions about his religious practices.
"But it was more of a genuine curiosity
rather than an attempt to offend me,"'he
Unlike Aisyah, who didn't see many
changes in his home country following
9/11, Engineering sophomore Joe Kaew-
baidhoon said in the wake of 9/11, tensions
clearly arose between Arabs and non-Arabs
LSA senior Wan Aisyah cameto the United States from Malaysia in 2008 to attend the
University. Aisyah said he first saw the impact Sept.11 had on people's perceptions of Muslim
Americans when he arrived in Ann Arbor.
in Thailand. Kaewbaidhoon, who was nine AlirezaTabatabaeenejad, a native of Iran
years old when his mother woke him up in and former Engineering graduate student
the middle of the night and told him about who began studying at the University three
the attacks, said he immediately noticed a weeks before 9/11, said the attacks limited
higher level of security in the country fol- his career options because there were cer-
lowing 9/11. tain companies that couldn't hire him due
"It's almost ironically tragic: Terror to his immigration status.
brings about heightened security, which Tabatabaeenejad applied to NASA and
brings about mistrust, which further alien- was granted an interview, but the inter-
ates innocent Arabians and thus raising view was cancelled because his poten-
their inclination to sympathize with the tial' employer realized Tabatabaeenejad
terrorists,"Kaewbaidhoon said. wouldn't be able to enter the laboratory
LSA freshman Ayeza Siddiqi also saw because of his Iranian nationality. While
instant changes in her home country of he was able to secure a second interview,
Pakistan following 9/11. Siddiqi was 11 he was told it would take too long for him
years old when she woke up on Sept. 12 to gain clearance and would not be offered
to a different world. Siddiqi moved to the a position.
United States last month and said the ter- Because of these limitations, there are
rorist attacks on 9/11 changed Pakistan's few jobs in the field of electrical engineer-
ties to the rest of the world. The event ing available for Tabatabaeenejad. He is
brought negative attention upon Pakistan, currently trying to find an academic posi-
she added. tion that doesn't require clearance.
"(9/11) has had a huge impact on the gen- Engineering graduate student Meh-
eral population in my country, and there's rzad Samadi, who is also from Iran, found
a lot of anti-Americanism," Siddiqi said. himself in a similar situation. Samadi was
"People are always hesitant to send their offered an internship in the field of com-
kids to the U.S. They just have this anti- puter engineering, but his export license,
American sentiment, which is really sad." which is required if someone who is here
Like Aisyah, who is determined to posi- on a visa will be exposed or have access
tively change relations between differ- to certain technologies, was rejected two
ent groups of people through his studies years in a row without explanation. He said
and future career, Siddiqi said the tension he wants to gain experience working in
between Pakistan -and other countries the United States, but if he isn't hired, he'll
had a significant impact on her decision to have to return to Iran to find employment.
study political science at the University. However, if Samadi were to return home,
"I feel that doing political science, in he would have to reapply for entrance -
some ways, I might be able to bring about which takes about a month - if he wanted
change," she said. "I know this sounds very to return to the U.S. Iran is one of five coun-
optimistic and whatnot, but I want to take tries that the U.S. doesn't allow automatic
this education back to my country and help revalidation of visas if the person holding
out in some way." the visa leaves the country.
Though Aisyah and Siddiqi aim to har- "My problem is not the rejection," Sama-
ness negative repercussions of 9/11 into a di said of'his employment situation in the
positive career path to create change, other U.S."My problemis thatI can't contact any-
students have seen firsthand the effects of one about the reason for the rejection. The
the terrorist attacks on their future career U.S. government is paying for my tuition,
plans a n s.+ butthey'don't let'me-worlo erthem."+ 4 r
LSA freshman Ayeza Siddiqi said 9/11 changed
how the world viewed her home country of