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Muslim High School Students In Manhattan React After Recent West Side Terror Attack

Muslim high school students in Manhattan react after recent West Side terror attack

By Tashfia Hasan
GSS correspondent

Google Map illustration by Izzie Ramirez.

NEW YORK — The attacks carried out by suspect 29-year-old Sayfullo Siapov on Oct. 31 took place on Chambers Street on the city’s West Side, making Stuyvesant High School the center of a crime scene.

After the attacks, it was publicized that Siapov yelled “Allahu Akbar” and has affiliations with ISIS, which has caused an influx of Islamophobia and hate speech against Muslims. Celebrities like Laura Loomer have made tweets that target and degrade women who wear hijabs and Muslims in general, forcing Muslim students at Stuyvesant, who are no different from any other student who witnessed these attacks, to defend their religious faith and humanity.

Siapov, a New Jersey resident, was charged with killing eight people and injuring a dozen more. He pleaded not guilty in federal court on Nov. 28.

Here are interviews with Stuyvesant students who are speaking out on how the attack affected them.

Illustration by Klaire Geller/Stuyvesant High School.

Syeda Rahman, 10th grade

I was really annoyed to hear that that this guy yelled out, “Allahu akbar” when he came out of the truck, but I hate to say that I wasn’t surprised. Whenever you hear about radical Islamists doing terrorists attacks, people tend to put all Muslims under the same umbrella. They think Islam is equivalent to radical Islamist views.

I stopped wearing the hijab out of fear. My parents told me that I should try not to look suspicious. People I know try what they can to not look suspicious and to hide where they’re from essentially. For instance, some people with bulky bags try to carry less. Little things like that assure us that we aren’t confronted.

After the attack, I can’t stop replaying the sounds in my head, especially the gunshots. The fact that it happened is hard to process, but at the time, it was so surreal. I try to distract myself and tell myself I’m safe.

Being affected by the attack and seeing it makes it different. Honestly, every time you hear about an attack, we tend to slide it off and think of it as another attack. But I understand that every attack is important in its own way. Experiencing it myself kind of made me realize that it’s not just another attack because it affects people in different places and ways. Also, I wish that people wouldn’t base their views about Islam on these attacks because they aren’t representative the whole Muslim population. I’m afraid of the people afraid of me.

The Home Depot rental truck used by suspect Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov, the morning after the incident. Wikimedia Commons photo by Gh9449/CC BY-SA 4.0

Ayham Alnasser, 10th grade

I was at Battery Park when the attacks happened. I heard the car crash, and I thought it was a UPS (Inc.) truck right in front of the park, so I didn’t think much about it. I walked up towards Stuyvesant to see if the UPS truck crashed. But that was when I saw the perpetrator walk out. I was going to take my phone out to record what was happening, but it was dead. I watched him run out and scream, “Allahu akbar.”

After that, I saw the police officer shoot him six times. Being at the crime scene, a police officer escorted me to the school because it wasn’t safe for me to be there. When I was in school, I was a part of the lockdown for the next three hours. When I came back home, my phone charged, and I checked and saw that I got 20 texts. It didn’t really set in (that) I just witnessed this attack.

Reflecting on the situation now, I consider myself to be a Muslim, so when I first heard him come out and say “Allahu Akbar,” I was irritated by the fact that he would say it. It’s clear that he isn’t really a Muslim because he killed people. He just pissed me off as a Muslim and as a student at Stuyvesant.

I am not unnerved by the incident, even though I have seen a lot because the (cop shooting him)  was warranted. I’m not traumatized by the incident. It only helps me further respect the (New York Police Department). I don’t like how much this incident has been so publicized because it’s become politicized, and it stops the incident from actually being an actual murder and just becomes a statistic.

Stephanie Raza, 10th grade

I’ve heard various reports about whether the perpetrator even said, “Allahu akbar” when he came out of the truck. It could be that he was just saying something in a foreign language and people are so scared or racist they just assume he said “Allahu akbar.” I was kind of disappointed seeing people categorize this attack as being done by another Muslim and it being so publicized because of that.

When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people jumped to the assumption that he had a mental disorder before they said the massacre was a terror attack. But in this case, they jumped on the opportunity to call it a bloodbath or a terror attack without having details fully confirmed.

Nov. 1, 2017 front page of the New York Daily News. Fair Use exemption.

Yasmeen Hassan, 9th grade

A lot of my friends saw the attack happen, and they didn’t hear the man say “Allahu akbar.” I know that people have different stories, but I think just that part of the story stuck because people want to know this was part of a community or a bigger organization, so they can (turn their fear into) hatred.

The next day on the subway, I was coming to school, and there was a newspaper on the seat right next to me, and the front page had (a headline reading) “Terrorist Attack: Deadliest Since 9/11.” This title isn’t true because there have been a lot of attacks and mass shootings which have killed hundreds of people. Also, when I was going to the subway, I was terrified about what the people next to me are going to do or say to me when they see me because I’m Muslim. There was literally a woman reading about the attack on her phone, and I was just sitting there worrying if she was going to say something to me.

I was a bit shaken up by the attacks. I wondered why would Muslims do this to other people. If he (the suspect) was really a Muslim, why would he do it? He would be putting his family and everyone that is close to him in danger.

I see this as a test from God to see how Muslims are going to handle this situation. Someone told me, ‘Our religion is going to be put under a lot of pressure, and it’s a test to see who’s going to power through and have faith in God to protect them.

I know this community is pretty safe, but there is always one person that’s going to do something that is not right. I think the best thing we can do is stay strong.

—Hasan is a student at Stuyvesant High School and writes for The Spectator. This article republished with permission. Featured image: Photo by G at Wikimedia Commons/CC 3.0.

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