Knowledge is the key to finding peace

As dawn breaks over New York, on September 12, 2001, smoke rises from lower Manhattan following the destruction of buildings at the World Trade Center

As dawn breaks over New York, on September 12, 2001, smoke rises from lower Manhattan following the destruction of buildings at the World Trade Center

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Ten years ago Mwanana Sulubani was a 12-year-old schoolboy living in Zambia.

His early years were spent travelling from country to country within Africa as each time he found a new place to call home, civil war and political instability would rip it apart.

Mwanana Sulubani who is the vice president of the University of Portsmouth Islamic Society

Mwanana Sulubani who is the vice president of the University of Portsmouth Islamic Society

And then, on September 11, 2001, Muslim extremists hijacked four planes and changed the stability of the world forever.

Mwanana, 22, now calls Portsmouth his home, and is about to go into his final year at the University of Portsmouth.

He is also the vice-president of the university’s Islamic Society and spoke about the impact the 9/11 atrocity has had on the Islamic faith.

He said: ‘I feel that the September 11 attacks were nothing to do with Islam at all.

‘They killed Muslims and non-Muslims and it was an attack on innocent people.

‘To understand what happened on September 11 and to understand Islam are two different things.

‘To me, Islam to the extreme does not support terrorism at all – it means they would dedicate their time to prayer.’

The hijackers were acting on the direct orders of Osama bin Laden, leader of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, and launched a series of four co-ordinated suicide attacks against targets in New York, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

The hijackers intentionally crashed two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City.

Hijackers crashed a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

When passengers attempted to take control of the fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Its target is thought to have been the US Capitol building.

Almost 3,000 people lost their lives on that day and, 10 years on, the memories are still fresh.

Mwanana remembers how people in his community reacted to the outrage.

‘Everyone had a change of heart towards the eastern world,’ he said.

‘Everyone stereotyped Muslims as terrorists. How the story was told, how it was laid out, it’s not surprising that people reacted like that.

‘It’s still like it today.’

Recently another member of the society, Mohammad Razzak, from Winchester, was waiting for a train when he saw that a woman, who’d also been waiting for the same train, was staring at him.

As Mohammed got on the train he saw the woman take one last look at him and then walk off in the other direction.

Mwanana said: ‘It’s like they see a beard, or a turban even, and think you’re a terrorist.’

But he added: ‘Islam means peace.’

Last November Portsmouth hit the headlines nationally after members of the English Defence League threw bottles at members of the city’s Muslim community outside the Jami Mosque in Southsea.

The protest was sparked after so-called Muslim extremists burning poppies in London on Armistice Day.

To Mwanana, the protest was an understandable result of the incident.

He said: ‘Everything has a cause and effect. The EDL have something to stand for and as long as it’s peaceful, that’s fine.’

Mwanana has a very simple solution to put a stop to the prejudice and intolerance that many Muslims have suffered since September 11.

He said: ‘Osama bin Laden, Gadaffi in Libya – they are politicians. It is they who do these things, not the people, and it is the people who suffer because of it.

‘What happened to Osama bin Laden, when he was killed, it’s the same to me as if something had happened to someone in Australia or far away – it’s nothing to do with me.

‘Some people are scared to talk about their Islamic faith because they think people will think badly of it.

‘They keep themselves to themselves and that gives a negative image of Islam.

‘They should be confident in who they are, not proud, but confident.

‘I go out of my house and I might get a few frowns from people, but I know that I will say good morning to at least one person, and they will say good morning back to me.

‘There is a war between the eastern world and the western world and, of course, the majority of people living in the eastern world are Muslim.

‘But there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

‘People need to open up and get to know one another.’

He added: ‘Of course I want to shout and tell everyone that I am a Muslim and not a terrorist.

‘And that’s what we are trying to do with the Islamic Society at the university.

‘We stand for justice, we speak out about breaches of human rights, all across the world.

‘I don’t like to think about war because I want peace.’

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