Wales

9/11: How the lives of young Welsh Muslims changed

Ten years ago on 11 September, 2011 the world was changed forever when two hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York, killing thousands.

Repercussions of the terrorist attacks on the US have been felt across the world.

As the anniversary is marked, BBC's Eye on Wales programmes asks young Muslims in Wales how the atrocity changed their lives.

The special Radio Wales programme is broadcast at 13:00 BST on Sunday.

Alaa Khundakji was 14. Now she is a bio-medical scientist in Cardiff

Image caption Alaa Khundakji: "I think people are learning to be more accepting"

"Just like the rest of the world, we were watching it, minute by minute keeping up to date. The TV was on and my parents were glued to it.

The first thing they said to me was you're not going out anywhere on your own from now on. You saw the fear in them, and I didn't understand why until I went to school the next day."

I was attending Llanedeyrn High School and was one of only three pupils to wear the head scarf.

I walked in and there was dead silence in the classroom. It really hit me at break time, when I went to see my friends. There were five of us. We weren't in the same class, but breaks, lunches, after school - we used to always meet up. It was great fun.

I remember them distinctly turning their faces away from me. I asked them what I'd done, and one of them turned round and said - "it was your people that blew up the Twin Towers yesterday, you knew all about it". I was shocked, and it then clicked what was happening.

From 9 11 it didn't stop, and then eventually it becomes the norm. I had my headscarf pulled off several times, and an egg thrown at me. There are still certain areas that I don't feel comfortable walking.

I didn't feel different until that day. I'd like to change that and say we're all responsible for what happened on 9/11.

Is the world a better place or a worse place? That's the question I'm still asking myself. I think people are learning to be more accepting now 10 years later. But it's worse in a sense that people are still suffering.

What I hope to improve is more acceptance. That's it really, to be accepted for who I am."

Saifur Rahman was 21. Now a drugs and alcohol counsellor, he has set up Neath Port Talbot Tigers football club

Image caption Saifur Rahman: 'It isn't about conversion. It's about education and understanding'

"That day, I went to visit my cousin in Port Talbot. We watched the events unfold on TV.

Slowly we understood what was going on and that Al Qaeda was involved. It was shocking news and a sad moment. I thought what was the point? So many innocent people died as a result of a minority extremist group, and Muslims all over the world would face trouble.

In our community, there were no big issues relating to 9/11. There were some low level incidents such as indirect name. At that time the police recruited hate crime officers, so we worked closely with the police to deal with this.

Two years after 9/11, I and two friends decided to set up a football team. Everyone likes football and all you need is a ball.

Initially, there were mainly Bangladeshi Muslims in our team. We realised we were segregating, so we went out and asked Pakistani and Turkish players to join and we changed our name from Bengal Tigers to Asian Tigers.

Then it became Neath Port Talbot Tigers to reflect the area we live in. In a town, everyone is welcome to play, regardless of their background and faith.

It's now a multicultural team, with about 40% Muslim players, and the rest from all backgrounds. We recently won the Neath Port Talbot district league.

The players ask each other about their beliefs and this exchange happens naturally in the dressing room or at meetings. As a result, the Muslim players invited the non Muslim members to visit their mosque. It isn't about conversion. It's about education and understanding.

The Tigers club has worked well to make sure integration has happened. Port Talbot is a small town and people are respectful. They see the positive side of NPT Tigers, and that makes a difference.

Things are getting better, but it's our responsibility to come out and pass the message on to society that we are a peaceful religion."

Mona Bayoumi was 19. She's now a barrister in Cardiff

Image caption Mona Bayoumi: 'What we do as a community or faith group is under more scrutiny than any other'

"It was about five days after 9/11. I went to get the post, as I had a birthday coming up. I had a couple of cards and then a third envelope. I opened it thinking it was another card, but it was a hand written note.

It was written in black ink. I think the starting words were something like "you're all disgusting Muslims, get out of this country, we hate you, you don't deserve to be here". It contained a threat to myself and was signed off saying "Long Live America".

I kept looking out of the window, thinking someone was hiding in a bush. I was more upset and disappointed than scared.

We reported it to the police and they advised me to take my hijab (head scarf) off. I didn't want to. I felt vulnerable and as though I'd lost a part of myself. It was a very unsettled time.

I suddenly felt as though I wasn't in my home or in my country. I've always considered myself British. I was born here, my parents are Egyptian, I'm a Muslim, but I'm British as well. In that instance, I felt different, as if I was being singled out.

Rightly or wrongly, what we do as a community or faith group is under more scrutiny than any other community. That's the reality that we are now faced with, which means that we all have the responsibility to improve our image. We need to do better PR basically."

Shah Islam was 24. He now drives a taxi in Cardiff

Image caption Shah Islam: 'Now to be Muslim means to be a terrorist, and I blame the media for this'

"I was born and brought up in Riverside, Cardiff, a multicultural environment. It's a nice place to live, nobody's got a problem. I went to school in the area, and teachers were great. Those school days were the best.

Before 9/11, I can't remember a single instance of racism. Since then till now, there have been hundreds of occasions.

If I go to work now, I can guarantee someone will say something negative about Islam and Muslims. There are some who are positive, but the majority are negative.

One occasion, I took a group of young lads to the valleys. One of them was very drunk and aggressive. He pushed the back of my seat and said things about Muslims - why are you in this country? Why don't you go back to your country? Why are you killing us?

You don't hear the word Christian terrorists or Buddhist or Hindu terrorists. But now to be Muslim means to be a terrorist, and I blame the media for this.

Now I prepare to go to work. I watch the news, cricket, football, golf and try to find out what my passenger is into so the journey ends well.

As soon as I sense a bit of danger or negativity, I check to see if I might be attacked from the back, and to see if there is a police car around. I drive faster, drop the person off and leave as quickly as possible.

There are people who've been attacked, but who are ashamed to talk about it, not even to other drivers.

Ten years ago I always thought of myself as British. I'd say Bangladeshi last, but British first. Now, I feel as though I have never been accepted."

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