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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Izzat Hassan Ali

September 11, 2002

Izzat Hassan Ali, 40, is a grocery store clerk in Zamalek, a leafy residential neighborhood in Cairo. He holds a degree in Arabic language and Islamic studies from Cairo University but is forced to work behind the counter at Al Jihad market because of the poor economy. He enjoys chatting about current events with his friends working at the fruit stand, the carpet shop and the dry cleaner on his block. Izzat was in the grocery going about his daily routine when a passerby told him about the attacks. He and his fellow shopkeepers switched on a TV and watched in amazement.

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"My immediate reaction was, 'This is divine revenge!' I had been watching the TV and saw what they were doing to the Palestinians and the Iraqis and thought, 'God must be behind this.' I thought more things were going to happen. I was just planted in front of the TV.

Before Sept. 11, I felt like most other people here about the U.S. We are constantly targeted by the U.S.; their policies are against Muslim countries. It's a nation that helps Israel, how else can I feel about it? After the events were definitely over and people learned the facts about what happened, learned that this was a very organized attack, found out how many people were killed or hurt, things began to sink in. The way I felt about the U.S. didn't change, but I did feel awful about the people who died. Simply awful. This was wrong.

There are other ways to influence American foreign policy; it didn't have to be through killing innocent people.

The U.S. is becoming too strong. We must do something. I think one way to affect American policy is by boycotting American goods. I am boycotting American goods as much as I possibly can. Many people have boycotted American goods since

Sept. 11. People used to come in asking for Heinz tomato sauce or Johnson's products, but now they ask me for alternatives. I think the boycott is a good idea. It's better than participating in anti-American demonstrations.

I have dealt with Americans in the shop before. They are very nice, very decent people. The problem is American politics; that's a different thing altogether."

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As told to Jailan Zayan

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