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The specter of Osama bin Laden and the Sept. 11 attacks defined an entire generation of young Americans.

It was especially brutal for Freedom High School student Usama bin Urfi, who was verbally bullied because of his name.

"My self-esteem went way down," bin Urfi, 16, said. "bin Laden ruined the name. He ruined the name of Islam."

The harassment was so severe that bin Urfi started going by the nickname "Danial." But he was still picked on because of his Pakistani heritage.

"They were saying I was a terrorist and I should go back to my country," he said. "I was shy around everyone. I was socially awkward. I couldn't talk to anyone."

Growing up during the war on terror wasn't easy, people of his generation say. Being raised in the Islamic faith, in the shadow of terrorism still lingering since the World Trade Center towers fell, is even harder.

Some young Muslim-Americans questioned their faith when misconceptions of Islam sprung up seemingly overnight while others became uncomfortable with their religious identity.

"Islam was demonized," said Ahmed Bedier, a local civil rights activist. "Kids didn't want to be part of the 'evil team.' How do we explain to our kids that the terrorists are the bad guys and bin Laden didn't represent all Muslims?"

Several children and teens, like bin Urfi, dealt with prejudice on a daily basis.

"I don't remember what life was like before this," Hajjah Kamara, a sophomore at the University of South Florida, said about post-9/11 America. "I remember people would call me 'Taliban' or they would ask me where Osama bin Laden was."

Kamara, 18, said she was an easy target because she wears a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women.

"I was walking into a Walmart and some lady yells at me to go back to where you came from," Kamara said. "In my head, I was like, 'I was born in Virginia, you know.'"





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