Editor's Note: With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks 10 days away, St. Louis Park Patch is looking for stories of local people who were uniquely impacted by the tragic event. If you have a story to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will run your stories on Sept. 11, 2011.
Kent Kosobayashi said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made being a Muslim in America “a little more difficult.”
Kosobayashi, who grew up in St. Louis Park and now resides in Minneapolis, converted to Islam shortly before the attacks. He had grown up in a Japanese family that practiced Buddhism, then became involved in the Lutheran church, but found Islam as he grew older.
“I felt I had grown as much as I could in the religion,” Kosobayashi said of being Lutheran. “I opened my eyes (to the fact) that there’s more to learn in other religions.”
He said his parents were always supportive of his religious journey. However, Kosobayashi said he is still somewhat guarded with his faith around others.
“You don’t want to be too outgoing with it,” he said.
That reality was taken to the extreme after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Kosobayashi said he saw and heard plenty of ignorant things about his religion.
Over the last decade, he said Americans’ understanding and tolerance of Islam has grown, but he still sees a ways to go.
“You (still) see a lot of things on the news that are just plain stupid,” he said of the media’s portrayal of Islam. “You definitely shake your head.”
Kosobayashi said he hopes to see understanding continue to grow. Being close to the Japanese experience in America himself, he said he sees Muslims going through similar tribulations as Japanese-Americans, who were persecuted during World War II but who are now generally welcomed by society as a whole.
“I think every group kind of has to do their time on the wrong end of the totem pole,” he said. “It’s an assimilation process.”
The key, Kosobayashi said, is to further dialogue between religious groups. It is something he and his wife, Helen, who converted to Islam before Kosobayashi did, practice in their day-to-day lives.
“I’m just hopeful that over the course of time, things will become better for the people of the Islamic faith,” Kosobayashi said.
MORE 9/11 STORIES FROM AROUND MINNESOTA:
Eagan: Eagan Resident Mike Ferber Hopes Memories of 9/11 Won’t Fade
Edina: Retired Army Vet Spurred to Re-Enlist Following 9/11 Attacks
Fridley: Demand Soared for Speakers on Islam after 9/11
Inver Grove Heights: VFW Commander: Sept. 11 Changed the Country
Lake Minnetonka: Remembering Wayzata Native Gordy Aamoth
Lakeville: Lakeville VFW Post Manager's Wife Working at Pentagon on Sept. 11
Minnetonka: 9/11 Memories From a Former New Yorker
Mendota Heights: Retired Mendota Heights Pilot Recalls ‘Paradigm Shift’
Northfield: Northfielder Will Never Forget His Birthday in Iraq
Oakdale: Terror and Joy Came Together for Oakdale Family
Richfield: 9/11 Aftermath: Richfield Couple Waits for Possible Deployment