September 11 Attacks Affected the Lives of American Muslims
For a long time, American Muslims have been part and parcel of the American society. It is however important to note that after the September 11 terror attacks, the status of American Muslims in the wider American society seems to have undergone a major review. Unlike was the case a couple of years ago, most American non-Muslims seem to have developed negative stereotypes of American Muslims.
The September 11 Attacks
One of the darkest moments in American history, September 11, 2001 is a day that will remain engraved in the minds of most Americans for many years to come. This is the day that 19 Muslim men executed a plan that left thousands of Americans dead and others badly injured. In a well planned (and executed) undertaking, the terrorists involved in this atrocity chose to used several planes as deadly weapons to murder and maim innocent civilians. It is the actions of these 19 misguided terrorists that informed the changing relations between American Muslims and American non-Muslims.
The Life of American Muslims before the Terrorist Attacks
Approximately 13 years ago, the relations between American Muslims and American non-Muslims were relatively healthy. Indeed, American Muslims went about their daily lives pretty much like their American non-Muslim counterparts. Islam was respected and well understood by even those who did not subscribe to its teachings. To some extent, all this changed after the September 11 terror Attacks. To be objective, it is important to note that some level of prejudice against Muslims did indeed exist before September 11. As Giger and Davidhizar (qtd. In Khan and Ecklund) point out, Muslim Americans still experienced some level of discrimination prior to September 11. However, this discrimination was not as bold and enhanced as it currently is. At the time, there were no protests to the building of Mosques and most American non-Muslims were actively involved in the assimilation of American Muslims into the American culture. Most American Muslims had also fitted relatively well into the mainstream American society.
The Life of American Muslims after the Terrorist Attacks
In the words of Almasri, "there has been no shortage of blame and hatred directed at Islam and American Muslims over the past eleven years." Indeed, as Almasri further points out, studies conducted by a number or well respected organizations including but not limited to the United States Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union have clearly demonstrated that since 9/11, "there has been a sharp increase in anti-Muslim sentiments from politicians, an increase of anti-Muslim activity, an increase of opposition to Mosques, and an increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups" (Almasri). The FBI also disclosed that as of 2010, anti-Muslim hate crimes had increased significantly (Lean). It is important to note that Al-Qaeda, the organization that has widely been blamed for the September 11 terror attacks (based on its own admission of involvement) has clearly demonstrated that it has strong Islamic ties. For this reason, most American non-Muslims feel that American Muslims are partially to blame for whatever transpired on that fateful day of September 11, 2001. This explains the increase in anti-Islam sentiments post 9/11.
Since 9/11, American Muslims have had to live with a grossly inaccurate assertion that they are violent people. According to a poll conducted by Washington Post-ABC three years ago, approximately a third of all Americans were convinced that Islam embraced violence (Cohen and Dropp). Indeed, as Cohen and Dropp further point out, only a slim majority of those polled were of the opinion that Islam was as peaceful as other religions. It should be noted that ideally, every person should be proud of being a member of a certain religion and subscribing to the teachings and beliefs of that religion. Given the changing perceptions of most American non-Muslims to Islam post 9/11, it is understandable that some American Muslims would be hesitant to disclose their religion in some contexts. For this reason, it is likely that most American Muslims feel more besieged than they were prior to the 9/11 terror attacks.
American Muslims have also had to contend with increased security screening and in some instances, surveillance. Indeed, many American Muslims can today attest to having been subjects of an FBI interview at one point. Air travel post 9/11 has also been an issue for most American Muslims with some American Muslim passengers now becoming accustomed to enhanced screening procedures and constant "interactions" with officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Although security screens have in the recent past become massively intrusive for all passengers regardless of their religion, American Muslims are still more likely to undergo more thorough security checks than their American non-Muslim counterparts. This is not to mention the often uncomfortable stares from other passengers throughout the flight.
Next, given the chain of events following the September 11 attacks, most American Muslims live in fear. Most will recall that approximately two years ago, an individual by the name Roger Stockham was found outside an Islamic center with an assortment of explosives. Those who lost relatives and friends in the attacks may understandably harbor bitter feelings against those they perceive as being responsible for the cruel deaths of their loved ones. There have also been incidents of vandalism targeting Muslim installations such as mosques. Two of such incidents that can be easily recalled include the arsonist attacks of a Wichita, Kansas mosque two years ago and the destruction of yet another mosque in Missouri. Many would also recall the horrific murder of a young lady in California. According to news reports at the time, Shaima Alawadi had been receiving threatening messages from anonymous people referring to her as a terrorist. Although her husband was accused of committing the murder, not everyone is convinced that this was not a hate crime. All these events have the ability of causing serious discomfort to most American Muslims and as a result, there are those who are living in fear thanks to the chain of events triggered by the September 11 terror attacks.
People have also became more anti-Islam as can be witnessed from the objection by most American non-Muslims to the opening of an Islamic center near one of the sites of the terror attacks. According to Lean, the mistrust existing between Muslims and Americans has in recent times been taken to a whole new level with escalating attacks on those perceived to be Muslims and arsonist attacks on mosques. According to the author, there have also been instances of anti-Sharia convulsions as well as what she refers to as congressional witch hunts. It is therefore perfectly understandable when American Muslims feel somewhat "exposed" and threatened.
To some extent, the September 11 attacks also further worsened the attitude of American non-Muslims towards Islam. Today, quite a number of American non-Muslims are convinced that Islam is supportive of violence especially against those who do not happen to be Muslims. In that regard, it would be reasonable to point out that the 9/11 events effectively triggered some kind of religious intolerance. According to Rabasa, events following the terrorist attacks have also extensively altered the political equation in the Muslim world (p.1). This is a clear indicator of the far reaching consequences of the said terror attacks.
The Way Forward
Going forward, there is a need for Muslim advocacy groups to foster better relations between American Muslims and American non-Muslims. This can be done by way of reaching out to those who do not subscribe to the Islam faith with an aim of demystifying Islam and its teachings. This way, I am convinced that the ignorance most American non-Muslims have regarding Islam will be stamped out. In that regard, the relevance of reaching out cannot…