When we turn on the news this September 11, we will likely hear the voices of those who lost loved ones and those who lived through the attack 15 years ago. We will hear politicians calling for restrictions on Muslims entering the country and questioning the patriotism of Muslim Americans. But one group wants to make sure we hear another set of important voices: Those of Muslim teenagers born after September 11, 2001 ― a day they were not alive to see, but which has impacted their lives.
Muslim Community Network, a New York City-based organization whose programs include youth leadership development, launched an Indiegogo campaign in June to raise money for an initiative they’re calling “A New Story of a Post- September 11th New York.”
“As we approach the 9/11 anniversary and Eid, we’re concerned for how [Muslim youth] are going to be perceived and what their experience is going to be,” Christina Tasca, MCN’s executive director, told The Huffington Post.
To help lift up the voices of Muslim youth, MCN is enlisting the help of Balestra Media, a communications company that focuses on progressive issues and has worked with the likes of NARAL and the ACLU. The company will help train a group of five Muslim Americans on how the news cycle operates and how to communicate effectively to media outlets.
Several of students were selected from MCN’s leadership development program Muslim Youth NYC, while a few came from other community organizations MCN partners with, Tasca said.
“It’s important that Muslim youth have safe spaces where they can voice their struggles living in a post 9/11 society,” Mikel, a 16-year-old participant in the program, told HuffPost. “We are so often silenced by media, academic environments, and even sometimes our own communities.”
With Balestra Media’s help, MCN is also producing a series of videos that will show what life is like for some Muslim American teens growing up in New York City.
“We want people to see how normal American Muslim kids are and what their experience has been like,” especially growing up after 9/11, Tasca said.
Sadly these experiences all too often involve bullying, and Muslim students frequently find themselves in the hot seat after terror attacks, Tasca said.
“School communities want to be able to talk about current events in ways that are educational and that treat their students with respect, but they might not know how to approach the subject,” she told HuffPost.
To address that, MCN is developing curriculum for New York public schools to teach their students about Islam and address the bullying of Muslim youth.
As of Thursday, MCN has raised $12,775 of their $20,000 goal, which one donor offered to match dollar for dollar. Tasca said the organization will use the $40,000 total cost of the campaign primarily to pay Balestra Media for the video production and training.
The entire campaign will culminate in a youth-led peace walk on September 10 from Foley Square in Manhattan to the Sept. 11 memorial site. Tasca said MCN is working with partner organizations to ensure that some 200 youth from different faiths and backgrounds participate in the event.
At the memorial site, Tasca said, the youth will hold a vigil for the victims of the 9/11 attack and pray for peace. “It will be entirely led by youth, and grownups will be in the background,” she said, so that the a new generation can “send a message that they are tired of the world grown ups have been creating for them.”
Learn more about Muslim Community Network and their campaign below: