Saturday, June 16, 2007

Travelling in a post 9/11 world.

If you think that the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks is limited to the United States....Think Again!
Just so you know- 9/11 was condemned by many Muslims and it wasn't even organized by the international Muslim community. However, the people who organized the attacks will most probably not pay for what they did but of course the moderate Muslims will suffer and pay for it.

I'm a young African Muslim belonging to a "terrorist-supporting" country (at least it is portrayed this way!). I was raised in a liberal and tolerant household and taught to respect other religions and cultures. I lived in many countries and I attended many international schools. Being a third culture kid, I love getting to know about new cultures and I love travelling!

Sadly, in a post 9-11 world travelling is not as fun and comfortable as before. I
'm not generalizing here...I should be more specific- travelling while "Muslim" or "Arab" is very discomforting now!
In my case, not only Muslim but also Sudanese.Keep in mind that Sudan is one of the world's least favorite countries, Bin Laden lived in my country for a short time and if I want to travel to America, I have to go through "special procedures" along with my fellow Iranians, North Koreans, Cubans and Syrians. Goodies!


My friends brother ( a 14 year old Sudanese boy who attends a prestigious American school here in Cairo) was denied a visa to Belgium a week ago. Ironically, his 29 classmates were given visas so he was the only person not allowed to go on this "school trip".

I applied for an American visa a month ago. Please keep in mind that I'm going with 5 other Egyptian classmates and two American professors. My fellow classmates got their visas 2 weeks before me because my passport was sent to Washington for "Special procedures". Of course, being a sophomore at university with a diplomat father..I'm definitely a danger to the American society!Anyways, I received my visa three weeks later only to o find out that my visa only lasted 3 months ( keep in mind: my friends visas lasts 5 years!)Additionally, I paid extra because of my "Special visa procedures".

I'm not going to be surprised if I was taken to a special "interrogation room" at JFK! Everything is possible now.

Turkey's Airport (2004)- please keep in mind that I wasn't travelling to Turkey (because I was denied a visa to Turkey of course!) but I stopped in Turkey on my way to Bulgaria.
Anyways when we stood in lines ready to board the plane, I was surprised to find two lines.
First line: Americans and Europeans
Second line: Yes...THE REST OF THE WORLD!
I have to quote a fellow Sudanese blogger here who said that after 9/11 "airports are like big bedrooms". Everybody is getting naked! etc....
Not to mention the liquids confiscated!This is what I recall from Turkey's airport. ..Not to mention the toilet I used many times during my 12 hours stay there ( I couldn't leave the airport for some reason...go figure!)

All Eyes on the Muslim World

After 9/11, the Muslim world became very interesting. Middle-Eastern studies is a very popular major in America now. Not to mention the large numbers of western study-abroad students coming to the Muslim world for a semester or even a year( most of them are Americans). Many universities started offering Arabic language courses and learning Arabic will definitely land you a great job with the Department of State (I was told so!).I find it fascinating how the west is suddenly interested in the lives behind the veils, mosques, the political structure of Syria and life in post-revolutionary Iran.I was part of a web-conferencing program called Soliya last year. We met with four students from different universities in the United States and discussed the core problems between the United States and the Arab/Muslim world and other current issues such as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the Iraq war. This is just another way of opening dialogue between two very different parts of the worlds.

More about my American visa problems and frustrations.
I started writing this post after I received my passport because I was frustrated and angry. I considered cancelling my trip because 1- I thought I was discriminated against because of something not in my hands 2- I don't deserve this treatmentafter all, I paid a lot for this trip (yes Africans don't like wasting their money:) ) and I think I deserve it because I'm interested in the topic we are going to study and I'm not going to let the sour American-Sudanese relations stop me from going to graduate school there.However, I would like to add that if this trip was a "holiday", I would've cancelled it.


Faye Pekas said...

Hi Kizzie

I am very sorry for the treatment you have received recently. This is such a hard time for everyone and I imagine being a Sudanese Muslim would make it even harder.

I don't ever remember Americans being as suspicious as we are now and I've been around a long time. 9/11 had a tremendous impact on people in my country, not only in lives lost but in the loss of the sense of security we've always known.

I do understand that people in many countries have never had the sense of security we have enjoyed in the US but for whatever reason we have been fortunate for a long time in this respect. Now this security has been taken away and many of us are frightened because this is all we have ever known and we don't know what to expect in the future.

This absolutely does not excuse treating people unkindly, unfairly or suspiciously. Most Americans I know are not like that and treat others kindly regardless of where they come from and no matter what their faith.

I hope your trip to the USA goes well and that you only interact with people who treat you in a kindly, non-judgemental manner


Kizzie said...

Hey Faye,
I really appericiate your comment!
Thank you very much for your concern.
I'm really looking forward to spending 3 weeks in California!
I never generalize you know...I'm sure there are great people in America.
I have many american friends, they are great people
I understand that it was necessary for America to increase security but the stereotypes created in the post 9/11 world we are living it are disadvantaging alot of people.