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What Is Life For Muslim Americans Like In The U.S. After September 11, 2001?

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The most tragic event to occur on US soil was the September 11 attacks in 2001 by the terrorist organization, al-Qaeda. Pamela Engel and Ellen Loanes from Business Insider describe the tragedy as “the most deadliest attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor,” claiming the lives of 2,977 innocent civilians, 19 hijackers and injuring more than 6,000 others. Two weeks after the September 11 attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation connected the hijackers to al-Qaeda, a global, decentralized terrorist network. In a number of videos, audio, interview, and printed statements, senior members of al-Qaeda have also asserted responsibility for organizing the September 11 attacks. It is believed that Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Mohammed Atef were responsible for plotting the attacks after meeting together in 1999. Evidence shows that Mohammed planned the attacks and that Atef recruited the hijackers. 9/11 was a major turning point for Muslims because society wrongfully perceived them as the enemy, and blame was unjustly put upon them for the wrongdoings of an extremist group (Williams, “A Brief History of Islam in America.”). The exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and its believers, following the September 11 attacks, resulted in bias, discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion of Muslims from social, political and civil life. This mistreatment became known as Islamophobia. Although life for Muslim-Americans was difficult prior to 9/11, life became unimaginably horrible and frightening for them in the wake of the attacks as Americans began to outcast them, commit hate crimes and racially discriminate against them.

Tensions amongst the Middle East and the West were high even before the 2001 attacks, beginning in 1914 when the West became involved in the politics of oil after British soldiers landed in Iraq to protect oil supplies from the neighboring nation, Persia. America’s interest and involvement in the Middle East began during the Truman administration in 1948 and has continued into the present day. After the attacks, the United States had made some serious changes to ensure the safety of American citizens. The post-9/11 period is the time after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, characterized by heightened suspicion of non-Americans in the United States, increased government efforts to address terrorism, and a more aggressive American foreign policy. Twenty years ago the United States surveillance was nothing compared to the present day, and airport security was not as serious. Furthermore, after the attacks shifted the nation's attitude and concerns on the safety of the American people as well as being careful and privacy. The United States passed certain acts, focusing on National Security and Defense. The main effects of 9/11 had on the United States are the war with Afghanistan, Immigration and deportation, the concern to keep the sky safe (Airport security, etc), and the increase in surveillance. All due to the doings on a single terrorist organization, which completely affected the lives of Muslim-Americans seeking asylum in the United States to face even more backlash and treated worse than ever before (Tokhi, “Afghanistan Before 9/11/01”).

For Muslims living in the United States, there was life before 9/11 and there was life after 9/11. The September 11 attacks had an astronomical impact on Muslim-Americans. They were left doubly traumatized by the attacks themselves and the misplaced retaliation against their communities that followed. Following the 9/11 attacks, anyone who slightly bore a resemblance to the terrorists shown on TV, regardless of other factors, became an enemy. The negative stereotyping is still prevalent to this day and Muslims have been faced with new struggles daily. There have been various reports of hate crimes, a crime involving violence, that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds, and racial discrimination. Aside from these challenges, traveling by airplane and going through security checkpoints, seeking employment and attending religious services without the fear of being attacked or unfairly discriminated against has become a distant reality for many. From the FBI database, hate crimes soared to an unbelievably high number compared to the little number it was pre-9/11 (Aziz, “The World 9/11 Took From Us”). Brian Levin, who is a Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Director, Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, said that the data shows, “There were 481 crimes reported against Muslims in 2001, up from 28 the year before. However, from 2002 until 2014, the number of anti-Muslim crimes receded to a numerical range between 105 to 160 annually” (Levin, “Explaining the Rise in Hate Crimes against Muslims in the US.”). Levin also put a visual representation on the changes throughout the days then years by adding in a line graph. The line graph not only shows the numbers of hate crimes after the attacks but as well shows that even prior days to the attacks the number of hate crimes was being committed to harm Muslim-Americans. It shows that the Americans have a persona on what the United States is supposed to be like, and this leads to the Americans going after the people that are unwanted and different, treating them like outcasts to this society. There is also life before 9/11.

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Muslim-Americans also faced backlash for their beliefs/religion. Muslims are followers of the Islamic faith. A follower of Islam believes that the Quran is the word of God. Islam places great importance on serving God and following Islamic law. Muslims believe their religion to be the ultimate religion, revealed over time by many prophets. Talk about statistics of the crimes towards the religion/belief, Supporting point: Hate crimes motivated by religious bias 18.7 percent were anti-Islamic (Muslim, 2017). Levin believed that after the attack the hatred on Muslims boomed, he said that “The new study from Mr. Levin’s nonpartisan group, based on official police reports in 20 states, estimated that there were about 260 hate crimes against Muslims nationwide in 2015. That was the most since the record 481 documented hate crimes against Muslims in 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks set off waves of crimes targeting Muslims and Middle Easterners.” Levin also said that “New data from researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 percent over the course of 2015” (Levin, “Explaining the Rise in Hate Crimes against Muslims in the US.”) These evidences show the reader how the religion of Islam was targeted even before and after the attacks in New York. But shows the statistics on how everything was affected.

The treatment of Muslim-Americans made a turn for the worst after the attack on New York. Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers, an increase fueled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail.” In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, hate crimes against people of Middle-Eastern descent increased from 354 attacks in 2000 to 1,501 attacks in 2001 (Munir, “As a Muslim-American Immigrant, 9/11 Is a Painful Memory: Opinion”). One of the many victims of the backlash was a Middle-Eastern man in Houston, Texas who was shot and wounded after an assailant accused him of 'blowing up the country.” Furthermore, four immigrants were shot and killed by a man named Larme Price who confessed to killing them as 'revenge' for the September 11 attacks. Although Price described his victims as Arabs, only one was actually from an Arab country. This appears to be a trend; on account of stereotypes of Arabs, several non-Arab and non-Muslim groups were subjected to attacks in the wake of 9/11, including several Sikh men who were attacked for wearing their religiously mandated turban. According to a report prepared by the Arab American Institute, three days after the Oklahoma City bombing (which was committed by anti-government white American Timothy McVeigh), 'more than 200 serious hate crimes were committed against Arab Americans and American Muslims (Lichtblau, “Hate Crimes Against American Muslims Most Since Post-9/11 Era”). The same was true in the days following September 11.

Islamophobia is the unreasonable dislike or fear of, and prejudice against Muslims or Islam. Islamophobia has become a fact of life for Muslim-Americans around the nation. Much like antisemitism, racism or sexism, Islamophobia allows us to identify cruelties and injustices that would otherwise go unrecognized and unchallenged. Before the attacks, Islamophobia had another name, known as Orientalism. The term Islamophobia was new after the attacks but the concept of this has always been here. According to Jenée Desmond-Harris, he believes that “Pre-9/11 the predecessor of Islamophobia was called Orientalism. That was the system that mothered Islamophobia; it feeds and provides many of the same stereotypes, systems of fear, and caricatures” (Desmond-Harris, “The Way We Talk about Islamophobia Every 9/11 Anniversary Is Maddeningly Oversimplified”). This shows that even pre-9/11 Muslim-Americans or any Middle Eastern were being racially discriminated and treated like they were never supposed to come to the United States. The crimes against the Muslim-Americans due to Islamophobia were completely disturbing and disappointing to witness. Jenee also said, “A May 2016 report by Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative counted approximately 174 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence and vandalism during 2015. These included 12 murders, 29 physical assaults, 50 threats against persons or institutions, 54 acts of vandalism or destruction of property, eight acts of arson, and nine shootings or bombings.” and “That’s 154 more anti-Muslim hate crimes than were reported in 2014, and a huge increase since before 9/11: American Muslims are now approximately six to nine times more likely to suffer these kinds of attacks”(Gjelten, “Marked Turning Point For Muslims In Increasingly Diverse America”). Not only did Muslim-Americans receive verbal racial abuse, but they also suffered from assault and crimes that involved violence.

Therefore with all of the data, and reports the lives for Muslim-Americans were dreadful pre and post 9/11. Many had thought that the lives of Muslim-Americans pre-9/11 were peaceful and adequate. The Muslim-Americans believed that their lives were going to be different after fleeing their previous countries because they needed some sort of asylum, freedom, and a place to feel safe. But in reality, they were still racially discriminated against, assaulted physically and verbally, and as well as being victims of hate crimes. Although it was not as large of reports and numbers, it is still important and wrong. Post 9/11 is when the numbers to these reports and crimes skyrocketed.

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What Is Life For Muslim Americans Like In The U.S. After September 11, 2001? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“What Is Life For Muslim Americans Like In The U.S. After September 11, 2001?” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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