Saturday 11 September will mark the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on the twin towers that killed 2977 civilians and injured over 25,000 people.
The attacks commonly referred to as 9/11 were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by terrorist group Al-Qaeda, against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Without social media or even widespread use of mobile phones and the internet, most people in Bradford, and around the world, found out about the attacks in the states through television reports.
Asif Iqbal, a digital creator, and telecommunications technician from Keighley Bradford remembers what he was doing on the fateful day. He said: “I remember walking home and the TV was on at home. I thought it was a movie until I looked again and saw that it was Sky News. It felt unreal, almost like a dream.
“I believe after that day Muslims had to re-educate themselves to explain to the world that there is no room for terrorism in Islam.”
Naila Ali, a Bradford lawyer now living in London, was sixteen in 2001, who had just started her A-levels when the planes crashed into the Twin towers. She said: “I was 16 and just started my A-levels. I was at school and with no social media back then I was blissfully unaware until I got home. My mum was just watching the TV in shock, and I just couldn’t comprehend what was going on.”
After 9/11, violence and racism against South Asian and Muslim people across the globe increased. The attacks fuelled Islamophobia, and the impact is still felt by British and American Muslims, and indeed Muslims all around the world today.
Speaking at Bradford Literature Festival 2021, Aaqil Ahmed, a broadcaster and academic, and Saeed Khan, a global studies lecturer at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, gave a talk on Western Muslims in the Shadow of 9/11. In the fifty-minute panel, they discussed how the terror event acted as a catalyst for Islamophobia worldwide, with Muslims the world over being defined by the actions of 19 violent extremists on that day.
Mr Ahmed said: “I’ve been trying to think about this for the last few days. I remember driving home from work that evening, I was working in Manchester, and I thought everyone was looking at me.
“They weren’t, but you would think that. Then it was the whole thing the next day, 12 September. I’m in London briefing senior people in the BBC about things like the jihad and from that point on, life was altered.
“I had just spent the last year of my life helping run a full season of programmes on Islam for the BBC. So, two weeks before 9/11, we had a full series of programmes, events, books, magazines, and we had the first documentary on the Haj. I was basking in the glory of it all and then 9/11 happened and it all went away, and it was like we suddenly started all over again.
“But it wasn’t just like starting all over again. We weren’t just Asians; we had become Muslims. Suddenly, there was this whole thing of differentiation between various communities. We were no longer talking about ourselves as migrants or children of migrants, we were now a specific, targeted group.”
For other members of the community in Bradford, the scenes that unfolded on that day was brought home by the thought that people they knew could have been killed by the attacks.
Lorraine Padgett, from Bradford’s inner city, was at her father’s medical practice when she found out the sad news. “I was talking to my dad who was a podiatrist at his clinic and the receptionist was there”, she said.
“I mentioned what was unfolding on the TV, and you could see the panic in the receptionists face as she told me her daughter was in New York at the time and that she had previously already lost her son. I found out later that her daughter was safe but was in shock.”
Rosalyn Hornby, from Eccleshill, was working when the towers collapsed. She said: “I was working in an elderly people’s ward in a hospital when the attacks happened. I walked into the lounge and the TV was already on. I asked the residents of the ward ‘what film is this?’ as I genuinely thought they were watching a movie. It was such a sad day; I will never forget it.”
Out of the 2977 casualties of the terror attacks, 67 of them were British, many of them expatriates living in the United States, working in either of the two Trade Centre buildings that were hit. Known to be football-obsessed, Howard Selwyn moved to New York in 1981 from Leeds when he was 27 and become a money broker rising to become vice-president of the financial company EuroBrokers. It was reported that he was told to evacuate the south tower while on the phone to a colleague at his desk on the 84th floor.
The United States government responded to the 11 September attacks by launching the “War on Terror”, which sought to undermine al-Qaeda and its allies. This led to George Bush sending in American troops to Afghanistan days after the attack.
Current President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced that all remaining troops left in Afghanistan would leave the country by 11 September 2021, a date chosen in memory of the lives lost in 2001. Over recent weeks, the troops have withdrawn, and the Taliban has regained control of the country. Taliban fighters took Kabul, the city’s capital after the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani fled the country two weeks ago and mass violence has ensued.
On Thursday 26 August 2021 a suicide bombing took place outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where at least 182 people were killed, including 169 Afghan civilians and 13 members of the U.S. military were killed. The Pentagon, the U.S’s military headquarters, announced that the last of the troops were withdrawn on Monday 30 August 2021.