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This was a drill we did in class today. I wrote this is in about 40 minutes, so do keep that in mind as you read. Also, check out my professor’s column in The New York Jewish Week about Khan; he uses a bunch of my research!

By: Jake Heller

Samir Khan, who was gunned down by an American drone strike in Yemen Friday, was proud to be a traitor to America.

In fall 2010, in fact, he wrote an article for online al-Qaida magazine Inspire entitled “I am Proud to be a Traitor to America.”

In the article, the Charlotte, North Carolina native proclaimed his belief that “Islam’s claim to power in the modern world is not going to be… easy.”

“I am acutely aware that body parts have to be torn apart, skulls have to be crushed and blood has to be spilled in order for this to be a reality,” he wrote. “Anyone who says otherwise is an individual who is not prepared to make sacrifices that heroes and champions make.”

Khan’s sacrifice was leaving Charlotte in 2009 for Yemen, to assume the editor’s chair at Inspire. The 25-year-old had become upset with “America’s cowboy behavior in the Islamic lands,” and decided to join al-Qaida’s global struggle to establish a global Caliphate.

“I decided to take up the pen,” he wrote.

Khan’s magazine advocated for the destruction of Israel—“the Zionist entity on the soil of Palestine”—and glorified the attacks of September 11, 2001.

On September 27, 2011, 10 years after 9/11, Inspire published a special commemorative issue with the words “The Greatest Special Operation of All Time” emblazoned across its cover.

Pages of past issues feature bright, colorful pictures of a smoky Manhattan skyline overlaid with small, dark snapshots of prisoners being tortured by American soldiers.

Khan did not always advocate violence, however.

“I began on this path as an Islamic activist who didn’t believe in fighting any government,” Khan wrote in “I am Proud to be a Traitor to America.”

But after studying Islam further, he said, he changed his mind. “Islam doesn’t shy from stating who is the occupier,” he stated. And America’s ‘occupation’ of what Khan saw as Islamic territories vindicated a violent response.

“I am a traitor to America because my religion requires me to be one,” Khan wrote. “Isn’t it time that American Muslims wake up to the fact that America is Islam’s number one enemy?”

By: Jake Heller

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a small group of African Muslims gathered Saturday in Staten Island’s Masjid Rahmatillah—“the mosque of mercifulness”—to study the Quran.

Members of the mosque disparaged the prejudice they have faced as Muslims since al-Qaida attacked the World Trade Center 10 years ago, and stressed that Islam does not teach violence, but peace.

“Islam never teaches people to kill,” said 27-year-old Hasan Nyehn, who tutors at the mosque’s religious school. “Islam teaches us to be tolerant and respectful.”

“In fact,” Nyehn said, “the Quran teaches that whoever save[s] one life, it’s like he or she has saved the whole world. And whoever takes away one life, it’s like he has destroyed the whole [of] humanity.”

Nyehn was living in Liberia when the two planes hit the Twin Towers, and moved to the United States in 2002 to escape his home country’s civil war. When he enrolled in college upon his arrival, he found that the U.S. was not as welcoming as he had hoped.

Like many Muslims in America, he has dealt with a decade of discrimination since 9/11.

“I couldn’t relax in school because the tension was too high for Muslims,” he said. “You could not even be identified [as a Muslim]. Because once you are identified, people will call you a terrorist.”

Nyehn eventually dropped out of school.

Just around the block, 47-year-old Sulaiman Tunis, also Liberian, shrugged off the suggestion that 9/11 pushed Muslims to the fringes of American society.

“I feel accepted,” Tunis said. “Nobody never harmed me because I am Muslim.”

“People be saying negative things,” he conceded, “but those are things I don’t pay mind to.”

Nyehn, however, does pay attention to such negative comments, and he finds it troubling that his religion continues to be openly slandered.

“You still find people saying that Islam is a destructive religion,” Nyehn worried. “But if you study Islam, if you live with Muslims, you know that, indeed, they are a decent set of people.”

Though the mosque’s exterior was peeling, its inside was filled with steadfast devotion. Men and women dressed in their nicest religious attire—thawbes (robes) for men and hijabs and robes for women—prostrated and prayed in unison inside the mosque’s only first-floor room. Women prayed behind the men, separated by a slew of unfolded folding tables.

Among those praying at the mosque was Omar Faruku, who drives a cab in Manhattan and fills in as Masjid Rahmatillah’s imam when needed. Faruku said he suffered double-despair on 9/11, an emotion brought on by his attachment to both his adopted country and to his religion.

“I felt pain twice that day,” the Ghanaian said. “America was attacked—I felt that pain. And it was a Muslim who did it.”

Nyehn said that these two identities—American and Muslim—have been bifurcated for too long, and need to be reconciled.

“We must learn to live together as one people,” he said.

Nyehn, who is now back in school studying journalism, added: “We should love each other.”

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