For the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Rolling Stone spoke with artists and entertainers who identify as Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent about how the aftermath of that day shaped their lives and careers in America.
Actor, comic, and former Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi was living in New York when two planes struck the World Trade Center in 2001. He spoke with Rolling Stone about witnessing post-9/11 discrimination against the Muslim community and how that created the career opportunity of a lifetime.
Mandvi remembers watching Islamophobia take hold in the weeks following the attacks. “The first thing I noticed was all the cab drivers in New York with American flags on the side of their cabs, in their window,” he says. “They were clearly terrified of the backlash. And then the stories coming out of people being harassed and beaten and sometimes even killed.”
Having been raised Muslim in the U.K., Mandvi found the bigoted response in the U.S. made him feel defensive of the faith, even though he no longer practiced. “I started to feel a resentment around how little Americans really knew about Islam and how little they really cared to know,” he says. “You started to see the irrationality of it all.”
Mandvi also spoke about the “double-edged sword” of the nation’s response to the attacks helping his career. He joined The Daily Show in 2006, where he was often referred to as the “senior Muslim correspondent,” because the network wanted someone who looked like him, he explains, to help skewer President Bush’s War on Terror. “The Daily Show came along partly because they needed a Middle Eastern voice or a brown face speaking from that perspective, on that fence between cultures,” he says. “I was very fortunate I was just in the right place at the right time to get that job.”