‘Under the prism’: Muslim Americans reflect on life post-9/11 | Islamophobia News

‘Under the prism’: Muslim Americans reflect on life post-9/11 | Islamophobia News

Washington, DC – Hassan Sheikh was in his highschool world research class in Detroit, Michigan, on the morning of the 9/11 assaults.

Instead of taking the take a look at that was scheduled, he watched the second aircraft crash into the World Trade Center in New York City after his instructor swiftly wheeled a tv into the classroom.

“We were all just watching in shock,” Sheikh, now 34, remembers. “We couldn’t grasp the gravity of the situation at that point.”

By the following day, Sheikh, who’s Muslim and the son of Pakistani immigrants, says it turned clear to him that the occasions of September 11, 2001, would radically alter his expertise as a Muslim in the United States.

He says he misplaced buddies, confronted bullying, and have become a goal of overtly racist feedback. Once whereas taking part in in a basketball recreation, a participant from the reverse crew known as him “a raghead terrorist Arab”, Sheikh informed Al Jazeera. The referee, he says, heard the remark however did nothing.

Then, a 12 months after the assaults, whereas on a household journey to Washington, DC, his mom, who wears a hijab, was accosted by a person who known as her a terrorist and requested her why she was carrying “that on her head”.

Sheikh says he and his household have a protracted checklist of such incidents – and they aren’t the solely ones. “A lot has been lost since 9/11,” he mentioned. “A lot of wars have been perpetuated and a lot of negative impact has been made.”

People in entrance of New York’s St Patrick’s Cathedral react with horror as they give the impression of being down Fifth Ave after planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers [File: Marty Lederhandler/AP Photo]

Increased surveillance

In the quick aftermath of 9/11, hate crimes towards Muslims in the US spiked, going from 28 such incidents nationwide in 2000 to 481 in 2001, in line with FBI statistics. Anti-Muslim hate crimes have remained excessive ever since, with the FBI recording 219 incidents in 2019.

“After 9/11 hate and discrimination was amplified,” mentioned Sumayyah Waheed, a coverage guide working with Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group based mostly in Washington, DC.

“Suddenly, day-to-day life for American Muslims became a subject for broad public consumption, their faith was radicalised, and all communities faced intense scrutiny from American society like never before.”

After the assaults on the Twin Towers in New York City and on the Pentagon, which killed practically 3,000 individuals, the US authorities swiftly stepped up safety at airports and authorities buildings.

Then, simply 45 days later, Congress handed the Patriot Act, a legislation that made it simpler for US legislation enforcement businesses to trace the actions in addition to monitor the on-line and cellphone communications of Americans suspected of terrorism.

Although key parts of the laws expired in March 2020, civil rights organisations say it left a long-lasting influence on Muslim Americans, who had been disproportionately focused. The teams have argued in court docket that the legislation violated Americans’ civil and constitutional rights.

Muslim Americans say governmental spying and scrutiny left them feeling distrustful of members of their very own communities [Jessie Wardarski/AP Photo]

In 2003, the administration of then-President George W Bush created the so-called “Watchlist”, also referred to as the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). In 2016, it included the names of some 5,000 US residents and everlasting residents out of roughly a million individuals on the checklist, in line with the FBI.

Muslim American civil rights teams sued the US authorities, arguing it’s unconstitutional. An appeals court docket dominated towards them in March, nevertheless, permitting the TSDB system to proceed to function in the similar approach.

“Immediately after 9/11 all Muslims residing in the US were placed under the prism of being a threat to national security,” mentioned Robert McCaw, director of the authorities affairs division at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“The places of worship, civil societies, student groups, and even businesses were surveilled by the federal government,” McCaw informed Al Jazeera. The FBI additionally deployed 1000’s of informants, McCaw mentioned, eroding the belief individuals had in one another – and of their authorities.

“To this day, American Muslims second guess themselves as to whether they are being spied on by the government,” he mentioned.

Mental well being toll

Faris Ibrahim, 28, an creator and host of the podcast The Faris of Them All that usually options Muslim American visitors, mentioned after 9/11 he remembers faculty buddies treating him in a different way and academics asking him “inappropriate” questions on his mother and father’ faith and political views.

Faris Ibrahim is the creator of the guide Breath of the Pearl Diver and host of the podcast The Faris of Them All [Courtesy of Faris Ibrahim]

“There was this idea that Muslims have this hidden agenda, this suspicion that Muslims weren’t on the same page as everybody else,” Ibrahim informed Al Jazeera. “That we were saying things outwardly but saying something different in our mosques, and we had to be spied on.”

Waheed at Muslim Advocates says the enhance in anti-Muslim sentiment after the assaults fuelled nativist, white nationalist teams in the nation.

She mentioned it additionally paved the approach for the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to dam all Muslims from coming into the US and through his time workplace handed three journey ban iterations that targeted on a number of Muslim-majority international locations.

Trump additionally infamously mentioned he noticed Muslim Americans in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 assaults, a declare that has since been extensively debunked.

Waheed famous that a rise in violence towards Muslims was documented in 2015 and 2016, even surpassing the charge after the 9/11 assaults. “That is not an accident,” she mentioned, explaining that the spikes coincided with Trump’s presidential marketing campaign. “His anti-Muslim politics led to real violence and hate towards Muslims.”

Living beneath the weight of legislation enforcement scrutiny and on a regular basis acts of discrimination for the previous 20 years has enacted a heavy toll on the psychological well being of Muslim Americans, consultants say.

According to a examine printed in July in Jama Psychiatry, practically eight p.c of Muslim respondents mentioned they’d tried suicide throughout their lifetime, in contrast with 6 p.c of Catholics, 5 p.c of Protestants and three.6 p.c of Jews.

“When we compare how Muslim communities are doing compared to other communities – including other marginalised communities – the mental health levels have taken a hit,” mentioned Rania Awaad, a scientific affiliate professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and a researcher on the examine.

“What the literature is showing is racial and religious discrimination as well as Islamophobia is definitely a factor,” Awaad informed Al Jazeera.

‘Just like everybody else’

The US Census doesn’t gather data on faith, however the Pew Research Center present in a 2018 examine that roughly 3.45 million Muslims lived in the US, making up a bit of greater than 1 p.c of the complete inhabitants.

Meanwhile, one other Pew survey in 2019 mentioned 82 p.c of Americans believed that Muslims are topic to no less than some discrimination in the US, whereas 56 p.c mentioned Muslims are discriminated towards “a lot”.

Asad Butt is host of the podcast ‘King of the World’, a seven-part sequence a couple of Muslim American teenager coming of age in post-9/11 US [Courtesy of Asad Butt]

Asad Butt, 41, the founding father of a media firm and a podcast host in the Boston space, mentioned he has devoted his profession to addressing Muslim-American points and making an attempt to “build bridges” with mainstream American society.


He recalled how proper after the 9/11 assaults, his father, who immigrated from Pakistan in the Nineteen Seventies, put an American flag exterior their home, hoping it will defend them from potential assaults.

“All of us who were Muslims in the country at the time had a target on our backs and we were vilified,” Butt informed Al Jazeera, including that Muslim Americans have suffered significantly from “small acts” of Islamophobia and racism, in addition to authorities spying, over the previous 20 years.

“There is this idea that we are not as American as the next person and we have to continually prove that we are as American as our neighbours,” Butt mentioned. “When the truth is, we are just like everybody else.”

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