Ashalul Aden is a longtime Rochester, Minnesota, resident who's a senior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She's majoring in political science and religion. Credit: Photo courtesy of Ann Gustavson Eldredge.

Sept. 11, 2001 is a day I will never forget. I was 3 years old at home in Rochester, Minnesota, with my mother. We were watching the morning news when suddenly we heard chaos. 

The “breaking news” headline flashed across every channel. I did not know what was happening, but I knew it was dreadful. I recall my mother crying. 

Four years later on Sept. 12, a Monday, I sat in my second-grade classroom as my teacher spoke of the terror attacks. A classmate asked her: “Who would do this? That is so terrible.”

My teacher, without any hesitation or second thought, said, “The people who did that are from the same religion Asha follows.” 

I was 7. I’m 21 now but I can still remember the stares of my classmates and how isolating and terrible the whole situation felt. I’m in college, but since that day I remain wary of going to classes on Sept. 11. 

We should never forget the horror of America under attack on 9/11. But now, 18 years later, we must find a way to stop blaming all Muslims.

Sadly, I am not sure many people know how to do that. 

The reality is that many people continue to blame all Muslims for terrorism. This notion strips every single one of us of our humanity. 

Every Muslim is different. Islam is the second biggest religion in the world. It’s dangerous and counterproductive to call terrorism perpetuated by groups like al-Qaida and the Taliban as “radical Islamic terrorism” or calling them “Islamists.”

Using these terms encourages the notion that all followers of Islam are terrorists. These barbaric individuals who commit such heinous acts are not Muslims, nor do they reflect the majority of Islam’s followers.

Islamist, Radical Islam, and Islam are often used interchangeably. This leads many people to believe that all Muslims are terrorists. This dangerous mentality has lead to numerous hate crimes. 

The terms do nothing more than motivate hate crimes and perpetuate lies about Islam. My Muslim teachers and mentors always told me a Muslim who takes a human life is not considered to be a Muslim anymore. 

Islam is important to me, so I cannot sit idly by as people paint false images of Muslims. By speaking about Islam, I have the power to share my own story. To educate others, and to answer hate with love. 

To me, this is the best approach I can take to counter anti-Muslim rhetoric and bigotry. 

It is 2019. Young Muslim children in the United States of America should not be blamed for the tragic 9/11 attacks. The people responsible for the attacks should be held responsible. 

Muslim people, however, remain targets. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a 17 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide in 2017 over 2016, along with a 15 percent increase in hate crimes targeting American Muslims over the same period. CAIR received 5,650 reports of potential bias incidents cases in 2017.

The group also concluded that rising number of incidents targeting American Muslims — including children, youth, and families — had become “increasingly violent in nature.”

Why is that OK? It should not be tolerated. I deserve to practice my religion without having the fear of assault being used against me. How can we ever move forward as a nation if we are hurting each other? 

Muslims are not the enemy. Terrorism is. I truly hope no one ever forgets the tragedy that occurred on 9/11. Nearly 3,000 human beings lost their lives because of terrorism. 

They should be remembered. To this day, many lives have been affected by this terrorist attack. As a nation, we should honor those who lost their lives and be even more united as a country. After all, we are “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”