Imam Abdul Haqq was working as a chaplain at Tamms Correctional Center when he heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
The imam of the Carbondale Muslim Center was with the inmates when the second plane hit and he prayed for those still trapped inside. He said everyone was sitting in silence as the news came in.
"My first thought was shock and concern that as many people could get out of the facility as possible," Haqq said. "I wasn't aware it was so-called Muslims who had perpetrated the unjust act."
While his mind was mostly occupied with the well-being of the victims of the terrorist attacks, Haqq admits he eventually began to think about the backlash that may come when the names of the attackers were revealed. He said when the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing killed nearly 200 people, Muslims faced backlash for the attack before Timothy McVeigh was revealed to be the attacker.
"The hope was that Muslims and Muslim places of worship would not be held accountable for the few," Haqq said. "They not only hijacked those planes but they also hijacked the meaning of our religion."
Haqq said there were a few incidents such as graffiti at the Islamic Center of Carbondale and name calling of women wearing a Hijab in public. He said associating all Muslims with the acts of a few is simply a misconception.
Haqq said the Quran reads that killing one person is the same as killing all of humanity while saving one person is the same as saving all of humanity. He said those who act violently go against the true meaning of Islam.
He attributes much of the reason for the lack of backlash in Carbondale compared to other areas to the Interfaith Council of Carbondale and the work they have done to bring different religions together to better understand each other. The group will have an interfaith service of remembrance at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in Carbondale Civic Center. At 7:30 p.m. Monday in Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, Osama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tenn., will speak about backlash felt by local Muslims after trying to build a new mosque.
Haqq said rather than constantly defending Islam against misconceptions the best he and other Muslims can do is to just be part of the community, contribute to it and stay true to themselves while living harmoniously with others.
"We don't do this because of 9/11," Haqq said. "We do this because it's our religion."