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Racism and Nationalism After
Racism & Nationalism After 911
More than a decade after 9/11, a retrospective view of racism and nationalism in America might points to a reverse J-curve -- at least in the private realm of most people living in the U.S.A. Governmental and political reactions may still run at fevered pace, and some would say the devastation has been insidious, seeping far beyond the bounds of the attack zones. "Ten years has given us time to see the tidal waves of post-9/11 changes in our society and our world. For all the tragedy of 9/11 with the thousands killed on that day, the after-effects are far more troubling" (Rashid, 2011, 754.) Conventional wisdom has it that racism and nationalism are flip sides of the same coin. If this tack is taken, the simultaneous rise in nationalism and racism following 9/11 makes sense -- so too, does the rise of patriotism. Though reactions varied widely, overall, Americans exhibited heightened expressions of national solidarity and racism directed at those who resembled -- or could be mistaken for -- radical Islamists. The brand of racism that arose after 9/11 can fairly be termed Islamophobia.
Visceral reactions to homeland violation. Reactions to 9/11 were exaggerated for large swaths of people and demonstrations of patriotism abounded. People took flags out of storage and hung them at half-mast -- or flew them from their car antennas. The depth and suddenness with which people responded following 9/11 was precipitated by the location of the terrorist attack within America's boundaries. In the minds of many Americans, 9/11 attacks were proof that terrorists were unrecognizable enemies. Jihadists could hide anywhere -- and did -- went the logic. When the enormity of the 9/11 attacks registered -- the American homeland was not safe -- both the scope and pace of racial profiling increased in public places, and especially where large numbers of people could congregate. In the hearts and minds of countless Americans, profiling became a sometimes unconscious and sometimes deliberate vanguard of prejudice against anyone -- as Prashad noted -- with "dusky bodies" (2005, p. 586).
Targeted racism. In the days immediately following 9/11 in the United States, attacks against people who looked as though they could be Islamic increased dramatically. People from all political orientations and across the social strata reacted to the terrorist attack with rage, fear, mistrust, and shock. Much of the nation simply seemed to be in shock, their anxious or mistrustful reactions to the terrorist attack predominately suppressed. However, those who were enraged seemed bent on extracting revenge, destroying, or driving the other across the country's borders and bordering seas. Fear and mistrust became key drivers of federal policy when eleven days after September 11, 2001,the Office of Homeland Security was established in the White House to safeguard the nation against terrorism and ensure readiness to respond to attacks that happen in the future. Indeed, Rashid asserts that the anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic rhetoric has precipitated an enormous and profitable industry -- one that plays out particularly well in the political arena. Rashid also argues that there has been a steady and alarming increase in "prejudice, misunderstanding and, often, intentional provocation. (2011, 755). He cites the following:
The burning of the Qur'ans, the desecration of Muslim cemeteries and property, gunshots into mosques, women harassed and attacked on the streets, and people attacked and killed simply because they look 'Muslim' & #8230;these types of incidents are increasing, not increasing, as time passes.
(Rashid, 2011, p. 755).
Not everyone would agree with Rashid and others who share his view that the incidences of racially motivated attacks and discrimination are increasing, or at least not entirely as a result of 9/11. People who were adults living in the post-war America will remember the crushing conflict and bigotry that proceeded the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.A. Racial prejudice was epic during the 1950s and the 1960s as social justice and civil rights came to the forefront of the nation's ethos. Moreover, it is difficult to make precise attribution on social issues of such enormity, particularly when the economic times have been characterized by very high volatility during the same period. The racialism of minorities that lays dormant in the U.S.A. In the best of times, finds expression when economic situations grow increasingly intolerable for all citizens. A worsening economy results in increased pressure on all minorities as people cast about looking for someone to blame for their fiscal difficulties and all the associated complexities that result. Moreover, as immigration from Mexico increased and collided with an economy in a depression, the reception for Latino immigrants dropped precipitously into negative territory.
Religion for worship or for war. One of the main elements of tolerance is acceptance of the religious beliefs held by others. Religious traditions and practices often define the identity of adherents. Recognizing that and melding it with the articulation of social justice, Americans believe that a spectrum of diverse religions is integral to the national culture and ethos. Muslims believe this too: "Whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded" (as reported by al-Bukhari, who was one of six canonical hadith collections of prophetic traditions in Islam, as cited in Rashid, 2011). Despite best efforts, religion often gravitates to the center of political debates and social upheaval. The situation is exacerbated when laws conflict with the practice of religions. Examples of when law and religious practice conflict include polygamy, refusal to say pledge allegiance to the American flag or to allow certain life-saving medical treatments for children.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right in America, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and central to the "American ethnic narrative and its implicit assumption of social justice" (Bung, 2012). Fundamental to the concept of religious freedom as it occurs on American soil and in the minds of citizens of the U.S.A. is that of religion as a vehicle for worship and a manifestation of faith. Although world history is chockablock full of examples of violent conflict due to religious conflict, the American version of democracy holds that people must be free to practice their religions in their places of worship and in their homes. The looming and enormous caveats, however, are that religion is not to be imposed or forced on others, and that religion must not be the catalyst for harming others. Particularly, religion, as it is practiced in the U.S.A., must not hold to a tenet or practice that compels or propels its adherents to harm, wage war against, or kill others. Yet a majority of Muslims living in America assert that Islam does not preach or compel violence. Rather, Islam as taught by the Prophet Muhammad says, "Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you, an speak the truth although it be against yourself" (as cited in Rashid, 2011, 753). Indeed, Rashid claims that 9/11 shocked Muslims as much -- or perhaps even more -- than the it did others across the globe "because the acts, done in the name of our religion, broke every tenet of Islam and disgraced the name Muslim" (as cited in Rashid, 2011, 753). To whit: "A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and a believer is one in whom people place their trust in regard to their life and wealth" (a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, as cited in Rashid, 2011, p. 757.)
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States contains this language: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" Nevertheless, in practice, the Supreme Court in has had to provide more explicit language. In 1978, in Reynolds v. The United States, the Supreme Court said, "Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation." However, The Supreme Court ruled that, with respect to federal territorial laws, "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices." As such, Constitutional law releases the states from tolerating religious practices that are offensive, damaging, or deadly, on the presumption that appropriate legislation has been enacted to address the offending or threatening practices.
The external construction of minority religious identity. Byng asserts, conformity may be required in social institutions and secular settings, but American society has tolerated and accepted practices that contribute to ethno-religious identity, when the practices are confined (internal to) religious institutions (2012). However, religious identities are also externally constructed, such as when Jewish men wear yarmulkes to work and Muslim women wear headscarves, and Christians were crucifix jewelry. Byng argues that this…[continue]
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