After the 9/11 assaults, Muslim Americans have been stigmatised, discriminated towards and perceived as enemies in their very own nation, neighborhood activists have mentioned.
Over the next 20 years, regardless of United States authorities programmes concentrating on their communities and the rise of social and political bigotry, Muslim Americans solidified their identification and carved an area for themselves within the mainstream political construction.
They grew to become extra seen and energetic politically. It was a means of confronting the challenges, akin to a self-defence mechanism, specialists informed Al Jazeera.
Moustafa Bayoumi, an creator and professor at Brooklyn College, mentioned whereas there have been all the time Muslims within the US, the Muslim-American political identification was largely fashioned after 9/11 in response to the “explosion of bigotry”.
“Muslims in the United States realised that no one was going to protect them, but themselves,” mentioned Bayoumi.
He mentioned previous to September 11, 2001, there was hardly any common recognition of Muslim Americans as a bunch.
“Once you see that there’s an organised social hostility, then your identity gets formed in response to that – as a way of not just protecting yourself, but claiming a space for yourself,” Bayoumi informed Al Jazeera.
Over the previous twenty years, Muslims emerged as a mainstream political drive – as voters, organisers and candidates. That political ascendancy has been a seamless course of, with the variety of Muslim-American candidates and voters rising every election cycle.
From metropolis councils and college boards to state legislatures all the best way to the halls of Congress, extra Muslim Americans have been searching for and successful public workplace.
Petra Alsoofy, outreach and partnerships supervisor on the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a think-tank targeted on Muslim communities, mentioned Muslim Americans’ civic engagement has seen “huge improvement” over the previous twenty years.
She cited ISPU analysis that exhibits a rise in voter registration and total political participation, together with donating and volunteering for campaigns in addition to the variety of Muslim candidates.
According to a study by ISPU, Muslim-American voter registration went from from 60 p.c in 2016 to 78 p.c in 2020.
Alsoofy credited voter registration campaigns and neighborhood organisers for serving to improve the variety of Muslim voters. Another issue, she mentioned, is Muslim candidates mobilising their very own communities.
“They are really giving people the courage to see people who look like them and sound like them in elected offices,” Alsoofy mentioned.
With Muslims turning into a voting bloc, politicians are acknowledging them. Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden released a platform for Muslim-American communities forward of the elections final yr.
He additionally addressed two Muslim teams because the Democratic nominee for president.
“As president, I’ll work with you to rip the poison of hate from our society, honour your contributions and seek your ideas,” Biden mentioned at a digital occasion for Muslim advocates final October.
“My administration will look like America, Muslim Americans serving at every level.”
Although Muslim Americans aren’t precisely serving at “every level” within the administration, Biden appointed the primary Muslim federal decide earlier this yr.
He additionally nominated Khizr Khan, the daddy of a US military captain killed in Iraq, as a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In February, Sameera Fazili, deputy director of the National Economic Council, made headlines when she delivered remarks on Biden’s financial insurance policies from the White House press briefing room whereas sporting a hijab.
Muslims in Congress
Keith Ellison was elected as the primary Muslim member of Congress in 2006. Andre Carson adopted in 2008.
Ten years later, Ilhan Omar – a former refugee from Somalia who wears the hijab – succeeded Ellison who ran efficiently for legal professional common in Minnesota, a statewide race. In the identical election cycle, Omar was joined by Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants.
All 4 ran in closely Democratic districts. Last yr, Qasim Rashid, a Muslim-American lawyer and creator, sought a congressional seat in a conservative-leaning constituency.
He mentioned the incumbent, Congressman Rob Wittman, made Rashid’s religion a “centrepiece” within the marketing campaign.
“He resorted to attacks tying me to terrorism and radicalism and extremism – just absurd, dangerous things that led me to getting threats,” Rashid informed Al Jazeera. “And so, that’s a factor that unfortunately is just a reality today in politics.”
Wittman has repeatedly denied attacking his opponent’s religion, however considered one of his marketing campaign ads slammed earlier tweets by Rashid that criticised rising the army finances hyping up the specter of terrorism by Muslims.
“Rashid alleged America is to blame for terrorist attacks, mocked the deaths of Americans killed by extremists, raged against rebuilding our military and promised he’d be a congressman like AOC and Bernie Sanders,” the commercial mentioned.
When all was mentioned and completed, Wittman gained decisively, however Rashid acquired practically 187,000 votes – considerably greater than earlier Democratic challengers within the district.
Rashid mentioned Islamophobia shouldn’t be prohibitive to Muslim Americans searching for workplace.
“We can overcome that – through organising, through education, through relationships, through investments in the community by being involved in the community and by earning and winning that trust, winning those hearts.”
Rashid harassed that whereas Muslims are perceived as extra seen on the nationwide stage immediately, they’re as outdated because the nation itself – with a big portion of enslaved folks dropped at the US from Africa believed to be Muslim.
More lately, Muslim sports activities icons like basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and boxer Muhammad Ali have dominated their respective fields. Malcolm X was a serious determine within the battle for African-American rights till his assassination in 1965.
“There was no America – ever – without Muslims,” Rashid mentioned. “The foundation of America’s infrastructure and its roads and bridges were built by African Muslims.”
Activists have been pushing to disrupt the stereotypical picture of Muslims as Arab or South Asian immigrants emphasising that African Americans represent a big a part of the Muslim-American inhabitants.
Muslim-American communities are certainly pluralistic – immigrants, native-born, Black, white, Latino, working class and white-collar professionals encompassing a spread of nationalities, sects and ideologies.
“As a result of the post-9/11 policies, there has been a racialisation of Muslim as brown, foreign, other, immigrant, refugee,” mentioned Darakshan Raja, co-director and founding father of the Justice for Muslims Collective, an advocacy group.
Raja spoke of a shift in political perceptions and activism amongst Muslim Americans.
She mentioned a brand new technology of organisers is transferring away from being defensive and making an attempt to show that Muslims belong to a extra confrontational method of demanding common justice.
“We have a youth generation now that is far more radical and progressive in what they are demanding,” Raja informed Al Jazeera. “So there’s no more of a dominant way of engagement with the government that is appeasement or that is apologetic or that is begging to be treated as human beings.”
As Muslim Americans transfer ahead and proceed to push away from the scope of the nationwide safety lens positioned over them, advocates say their communities are wanting past the post-9/11 period.
Bayoumi, the professor, mentioned Muslim Americans can be tackling challenges frequent to different communities within the nation – entry to healthcare and financial points.
“At the same time, I think there’s going to be a lot of questions regarding immigration and refugee issues,” he added, referring to the present pushback from right-wing politicians concerning the resettlement of Afghans and the Syrian refugee disaster just a few years in the past.
Bayoumi added that he hopes that Muslim Americans will play an element within the rethinking of US overseas coverage and army engagements in Muslim-majority nations.
“We have to move towards the United States having a lighter military footprint in parts of the Muslim world where they currently are,” he mentioned. “And I think it would be certainly a strength if the Muslim-American community were able to be to be part of a successful advocacy movement towards ending the war on terror.”
Raja mentioned Muslim communities face an inner problem centring on their very own variety.
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Alsoofy, of ISPU, echoed Raja’s remark. “Internally within the American Muslim community – just like it’s happening in the rest of the country – [we] need a conversation around making sure that we’re inclusive of every voice,” she mentioned.
She added that one other persevering with effort is shaping the notion of Muslim Americans – shifting from responding to stereotypes and condemning terrorism to representing their very own tales and struggles as a part of society.
“We’re able to share more about who we are as people beyond just the headlines … We’re able to see American Muslim doctors talk about a pandemic; we’re able to talk about poverty within the American Muslim community in a normal way without having to hear that we’re showing a negative story about ourselves,” she mentioned.