This is an article my darling little cousin Yasmin Akbari wrote. Yasi, when I read this I was so proud of you. I never knew you were such a great writer. I have a lot of opinions on a lot of the things you said however and I want to share them with you. First off, I was wondering why you said the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time in high school. Did you not say it before? Did you not want to say it? Was it your way of passive rebellion? Leave me comments. And we’ll talk about it.

I am proud to say that I recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time in high school Sept. 9. It’s not that I don’t pledge my allegiance to the union: America is and always has been my home. Ask any high school student: because teachers and administrators don’t force us to, we simply don’t bother to recite the familiar promise. It’s almost an inconvenience, it takes too much effort to say that we are thankful for the liberties and freedoms we have in America. It’s a shame though, because if you think about, people across the globe die every day for those freedoms we refuse to get up from our chairs for.
I stood up for that pledge not just because of the 2,977 fallen civilians who died on 9/11, but because of the 4,683 Americans who honorably lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and because of the 100,000 Iraqi and 20,000 Afghan civilians killed because of these heinous terrorist acts. We shouldn’t forget that though this war started on our soil, the majority of it was fought in the most impoverished and unfortunate areas of the world. We shouldn’t forget those other casualties of 9/11, the ones that experience these tragedies on a daily basis.
I’m upset with America. This country was built on diversity and immigration, yet today we shun our neighbors who are different, who believe in something other than the majority, who came from destructive and harmful countries to seek the better life that we’ve become accustomed to since before we could remember. That makes us arrogant, knowing in the back of our minds that when we wake up tomorrow our schools we will still be in one piece, our friends and family will go to work and then come home to enjoy an uninterrupted meal, and that our greatest worries are where we go to college and whether we can advance in our careers. This isn’t the case everywhere. In many parts of the world, tragedies like 9/11 happen every day, yet we don’t hear about it, we don’t think about it, and we don’t feel sorry for them because we can’t even imagine it.
Though I am not Muslim, hearing the testimonies of various Muslim-American students and their feelings of sorrow and guilt make me extremely upset with the false generalization that Muslims carried out these attacks, when in fact, Muslim extremists did. One student I spoke with revealed to me that during discussions on the War on Terror and 9/11, she inadvertently “sinks into her chair” because she feels shame for what some people did under the name of God and her religion. During video presentations on the issues of terrorism and extremism, she focused not on the broadcast but instead on the reactions and emotions of other students in the classrooms, mentally apologizing for something that had nothing to do with her. It’s about time Muslims across the world stop apologizing for something they didn’t do.
This feeling of guilt is a deep-rooted problem that stems from the extensive and negative coverage of Middle Eastern countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. All we ever see on TV is the deserted mountain ranges in the deep corners of the countries that “breed terrorism” and humiliate Islam. These incomplete depictions do nothing except perpetrate a detrimental outlook on Islam as a whole. Sometimes it seems like every other TV clip in between these images of the mountains shows Muslims praying, and though this is obviously not a negative thing, it inadvertently connects extremism to mainstream Islam. The media rarely covers the bombings of schools and government buildings in these countries because it’s their norm. Anyone knows that this is a problem. If we want to fix the issue of extremism, we need to think innovatively about how to end the corrupt governments that set the example and ultimately aid in the distortion of the minds of their people, instead of claiming to “spread our values of democracy” like we have in the last 10 years.
People in these countries “hate” us because all they’ve known us for is the bombs that we drop on their cities. To us, the Middle East is maybe a few chapters in our textbooks, but to them, our presence is their entire history.
Even in America, extremism and intolerance exist on a daily basis. We all know about the Koran-burning threats that consumed the news for far too long, but people forget about the daily exchanges that make Muslim-Americans cringe in their chairs. Al Jazeera journalist Gabriel Elizonda, who traveled the country to hear about Americans and the effects of 9/11 on their lives, was forbidden from talking to community members during a Texas football game because according to the superintendent of schools, “Al Jazeera was not welcome [there].”
We cannot always control the external forces that cause extremism, especially those beyond our shores. Instead, we can work together to quiet close-minded beliefs, like those of the Texas superintendent, against certain cultures in our country.
Let’s stand up together as a nation and vow to change our beliefs. It’s been 10 years since that fateful day, and what we’ve learned is that our spirit is far greater than any act of terrorism. Together we can beat this plague of intolerance and injustice; together we learn to accept people as one race, the human race.
So the next time it’s time to say the pledge, remember that you’re not just pledging to the flag or your government or your military. This flag represents so much more than what we recite: its principles, which our country was built upon nearly 235 years ago. Don’t forget what it means to be an American.


  1. Yasmin Akbari says:

    Hi shaad! Thanks so much for putting this up here. Just to clarify, it was never about rebellion. It was more or less a sense of indifference and had to do with the fact that teachers never required us to at least stand up and be respectful.

  2. shaady says:

    Every day, I stood up and I said the pledge… i Think it was out of habit first, and then when other people wouldn’t say it, I thought I had to make up for them and say it louder…. it bothered me in class and i thought it was disrespectful… its funny. I felt so strongly about it yet i didnt know exactly. why….

    • shaady says:

      I also think that is it very brave of you to say that “you are upset with America” i love it. You should always stand up for what you believe in. Eventhough you are upset with America for a few places, you still love and cherish living here. I know that. And you still stand for the pledge. thats my girl

  3. Nava says:

    Well put. Thank you for posting this Shaady. Thank you for writing it, Yasi.

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