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Impact of 9/11 on Muslim Americans

By Abdul Malik Mujahid

In 50 years, it is very likely that historians will divide America's history into that which occurred before 9/11 and that which took place afterwards. This single event changed the country tremendously. But we don't have to wait until then to see the effects. Today, five years later, Muslim Americans know all too well how this tragedy has changed the world. Here are some examples of the impact the terrorist attacks had on the Muslim American community:

Under Siege by Officers: 500,000 Affected

While dozens of Muslims died in the World Trade Center, the heroic death of Mohammad Salman Hamdani highlights the dilemma of Muslims. He was a young Muslim medic who rushed to help and died under collapsing towers but was publicly suspected of being a terrorist until five months later, when he was honored as a hero. Muslims were the suspects across America.

Dick Armey, a Republican conservative and a former House majority leader, said it best: "The Justice Department seems to be running amok. This agency right now is the biggest threat to personal liberty in the country." Despite this assessment, few Americans are aware of the department's misdeeds.

Muslims have been subjected to an extremely intrusive interrogation process. Scholars estimate that 200,000 to 500,000 Muslims have been affected by this process.

Over 18,000 Muslims have been deported.

More than 15,000 Muslims have been detained or arrested.

According to the Inspector General of the Justice Department, Muslim prisoners are subjected to extra ordinary legal and illegal treatment while in detention.

Economic Impact on Muslims

A recent study noted that Muslim American professionals suffered a 10 percent wage reduction since 9/11. In terms of employment, Muslims are the last to be hired and the first to be fired. Resumes with names like Muhammad and Ahmed don't go anywhere while the same resume with a different name will be considered. Muslim establsihments have lost about 40 percent of their business post-9/11, as researchers have discovered in Brooklyn, New York and on Chicago's Devon Ave.

Widespread Discrimination & Harassment

Nearly 75 percent of Muslim Americans either know someone who has or have themselves experienced an act of anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment, verbal abuse or physical attack since September 11 (This Zogby Survey is of May 2002).

Dehumanization of Muslims

Islam and Muslims continue to be dehumanized. Franklin Graham's quote describing Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion"is just the tip of the iceberg. Online and offline, "the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric is growing in quantum leaps since 9/11," said CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper during a session at the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention last week. The recent use of the term "Islamofacism"by President Bush, as well as his description of the war on terror as a Crusade only adds to the hatred. Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk noted in November 2005 said, "[I'm] okay with discrimination against young Arab males from terrorist-producing states."

Loss of Neighbors'Confidence

Muslims and their faith are steadily losing favor with their neighbors. Almost half of Americans believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to promote violence. This is double of what people thought immediately after the terrorism attacks of 9/11.

Political disempowerment

A skit on a well-known comedy show during the 2004 US elections showed John Kerry receiving news that Muslim Americans had decided to support him. His reaction? Indifference. This accurately reflects the political landscape for Muslims in America today. Our political contributions are not accepted. Our voice is neither respected nor recognized. Because of this, we choose to remain silent on critical issues. The most recent example is that of the situation in Lebanon. Hardly any politician was willing to call for a ceasefire during the fighting. Muslims were even unwilling to assert their position to stop the invasion of Lebanon. The power of the Israeli lobby has led to a one-sided voice on the Israel/Palestine issue, and the most recent violence is just another example of that.

No Access to the White House

A huge majority of Muslims voted for President Bush in his first term essentially for stating in one of the presidential debates that he opposed secret evidence and profiling of Muslims. Whatever political empowerment Muslims gained was lost. Prior to 9/11, there was a Muslim liaison in the White House. He was let go after 9/11. In addition, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's top Muslim civil rights organization, has been prohibited access to the White House for the most of post 9/11 era unlike in Britain, where Muslim organizations' access to the country's top leaders increased after the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks.

Loss of charity/social services infrastructure

Muslim charities were unique because they were 100 percent dependent on voluntary Muslim donations. Since 9/11, the US government has banned a number of Muslim charities without properly investigating them for wrongdoing, a move that has been criticized by the 9/11 Commission. This has left not only the entire Muslim American charity infrastructure devastated, but the Muslim community is afraid to donate to Islamic charities, let alone volunteer for these organizations.

Muslim Mental Health

Although there is little written research on this topic, Muslim social service providers report a very high level of mental health problems. The pressures Muslim Americans face is indicated by the fact that many have chosen to live abroad to avoid the difficulties of living here, to the extent that there is one mosque in Dubai where sermons are delivered in English because the congregation is essentially made up of Muslim Americans. Also, reports in the New York Times and other media outlets have noted that a number of Muslims have changed their names to avoid the discrimination they expect to face in all areas, from employment to housing. 

This is what terrorism and war on terrorism has given to Muslims in America.

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