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American Muslims ten years after 9/11

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On the second anniversary of the ghastly tragedy of 9/11 I wrote:

"Two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Muslim community in America, victim of guilt by association, remains under siege. Profiled, harassed, reviled, attacked, peeped at by the CIA and the FBI, interrogated and permanently controlled at airports, the whole community felt excluded of American society. After the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were imprisoned in 10 relocation camps in the United States. But after 9/11 2001, the whole country is converted into a virtual detention camp for the Muslims by abridging their civil rights."

Ten years later, this is true today as the seven-million American Muslims remained besieged   through reconfiguration of US laws, policies and priorities in the post-9/11 era. Alarmingly, the post-911 America has become less friendly to Muslims to the extent that they have probably replaced other minorities - Hispanics, Native Americans and Afro Americans - as targets of discrimination, hate and prejudice. Many American Muslims have a story of discriminative treatment ranging from physical attacks, a nasty gaze, casual comments to work place harassment, burning mosques and the Quran. Muslims have witnessed the ever-growing marginalization of their communities.

According to a PEW survey released on August 30, 2011, forty-three percent had personally experienced harassment in the past year. The survey also said that 52 two percent of Muslim Americans complained that their community is singled out by government for surveillance.

The 9/11 attacks have left a lasting and damaging image for American Muslims who to this day are still fighting stereotypes and a negative image. The challenge that most Muslims face is their concern in the way they dress or their name might make them an easy target for stereotyping. Arab and Muslim Americans increasingly feel targeted by negative media portrayals and concerned about profiling.

Anti-Sharia bills

A decade after 9/11, the backlash against American Muslims shows no signs of improvement and 2010-2011 witnessed a wave of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hatred campaign sweeping the country in the shape of the so-called anti-Sharia bills introduced in about 20 states. The bills were patterned on a template produced by leading Islamophobe David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew, who founded an organization in 2006 with the acronym SANE (the Society of Americans for National Existence) with the aim of banishing Islam from the US. He proposed a law that would make adherence to Islam a felony punishable by 20 years in prison. In February this year Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron and Representative Judd Matheny (both Republicans) had introduced similar bills to make it illegal to follow Islamic moral code which includes religious practices like feet-washing and prayers.

There is fallout on Muslims of these anti-Sharia campaigns which began November 2010 in Oklahoma when the voters by a 70-30 percent margin passed a ballot question that barred "state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases." The new law -- which was widely considered as unfairly targeting the Muslim community and blaming it for the non-existent threat of Sharia law in the United states -- was blocked by an injunction issued just a few weeks later by federal judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange. The judge argued that the Sharia ban was unconstitutional because it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and unfairly singled out Muslims.

The anti-Sharia campaigns increase bias among the public by endorsing the idea that Muslims are second-class citizens. They encourage and accelerate both the acceptability of negative views of Muslims and the expression of those negative views by the public and government agencies like the police.

Not surprisingly, January 2010 Gallup Poll showed that 53% of Americans have unfavorable views of Islam, more than any other religion, and 43% admit to feeling "at least a little prejudice" toward Muslims. This negative attitude was corroborated in the latest Gallup poll (released on August 2, 2011) which says at least 4 in 10 in every major religious group in the U.S. say Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans, with Jews (66%) saying this.

The non-existent threat of Sharia, or Islamic law, to the American way of life is going to be a major debate topic among Republican presidential candidates this cycle. As the Republican presidential nomination process begins, at least two GOP potential candidates - Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich - are making a name for themselves as the Islamophobia candidates.

The seven-million strong American Muslim community was dismayed at the anti-Muslim sentiment displayed by Republican presidential candidates during June 13, 2011 debate in New Hampshire. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's compared Muslims to Nazis.[1]

Since 9/11, there has been a steady rise in Islamophobia, however during mid-term election campaign there was an exponential rise of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry. Many Religious Right leaders and opportunist politicians asserted repeatedly that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and that mosques are fronts for extremist "jihadis.' There was a substantial increase in the number of political candidates using Islamophobic tactics in an effort to leverage votes, and use such tactics as a platform to enhance their political visibility. [2]

Consequently, Muslims rejected the Republican Party at the polls in 2008 and 2010. According to the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, just 2.2 percent of Muslims voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008.

As Stephan Salisbury reported, during the 2010 midterm election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties. In the wake of those elections, with 85 new Republican House members and a surging Tea Party movement, the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric as a means of rousing voters and alarming the general electorate have gone largely unchallenged. It has become an article of faith that a successful 2010 candidate on the right should treat Islam with revulsion, drawing a line between America the Beautiful and the destructive impurities of Islamic cultists and radicals. [3]

Peter King's Muslim phobia 

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 
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