Read the original post here: Musings from Malaysia: 11 Years Later- How Living in a Primarily Muslim Country has Changed my Views of the World....
Has it really been one year since I wrote this post? 365 days, and thousands of miles away. How things have changed.
I've been back in the U.S. for almost 4 months now. People ask me questions about my Malaysia all the time, but sadly the questions, especially at school, range from "Did someone try to set you up to be in an arranged marriage?" to "I'm surprised you came back, you know, living with terrorists for a year."
It's heartbreaking. The people I called mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, teacher last year are labeled as terrorists here, simply because of their religion. Trying to convey a message of acceptance and tolerance can be difficult. The human race is one that likes to draw their own conclusions.
This isn't every American. Not at all. In fact, the attitudes are changing. I presented at a college fair with a colleague program last weekend about the YES Abroad Program. When I said the words "American high schoolers live in countries with significant Muslim populations for one year," I was humbled to see that parents and students alike weren't bothered by this. Maybe a little surprised, as Southeast Asia and Africa aren't common study abroad locations, but they were willing to hear me out. This is a response I doubt I would've gotten as little as 5 years ago. Acceptance is growing; it makes me proud to be an American.
As much as it has become a part of it, September 11th is not a religion based day. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheist, Hindus alike were victims of the attack. We all bleed red. Osama bin Laden was Muslim, Hitler was atheist, Westboro Baptist Church is Christian. Each religion has hate. Evil people doing terrible things. That doesn't change the beauty in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, or the empty tomb on Easter, or the menorah burning for eight long nights. It doesn't change the photos of the Christians in Egypt holding hands to make a human wall while Muslims pray, and then Muslims doing the same later. Religion may define a person, but a person shouldn't define a religion.
Tomorrow, I will stand with my schoolmates, wearing red white and blue, seeing the flag of this great nation fly. Tomorrow, we will respect the fallen, the wounded, the mourning, those who 12 years later, still live with the aftermath of this tragic event every day. Tomorrow, is a day to remember. A day to respect, honor, and mourn. Tomorrow, our nation will be united, hearts beating as one. And all over the world, we must remember other countries are with us. Tomorrow, maybe we can put aside our differences for once, and remember that day 12 years ago, view it as citizens of the world, regardless of our backgrounds.