What are the different types of backlash and which one had the most devastating impact on Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans?
September 11, 2001 was a devastating day to America as unprecedented terrorist attacks took place in New York’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon in Virginia and rural Pennsylvania. It is estimated that over 3,000 lives were lost while property and buildings worth millions of dollars were destroyed. The most devastating effect however is that America and the whole world in general lost its sense of security. After the events of that day, American Muslims were severely discriminated against by the rest of the nation. The key reason that led to stigmatization is that they belonged to the same community as the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
The period after the September 11th attacks was marked by wide-spread hatred and ignorance towards Muslims. Due to this ignorance, American Muslims suffered great alienation and humiliation, whereas they had played no role in the terrorism activities. Muslims of all genders, status, origins and ages were increasingly viewed as betrayers and outcasts, their only fault being that they shared the same ethnicity and religious backgrounds as the Al-Qaeda. The Al-Qaeda is an extremist group, and their extremist beliefs do not represent the beliefs of the Muslim faith. The American Muslims were also targeted because America was deeply angered, grieved and shocked by the atrocity of the terrorist attacks, and the American Muslims were an accessible outlet for their anger and frustration.
Many Americans of non-Muslim origin formed negative opinions of Muslim Americans as they were viewed as holding divergent political, religious and personal views from the rest of the country. Due to the terrorist Al-Qaeda faction of the Muslim community, all Muslims were viewed as capable of committing such atrocious acts since they shared a similar ethnic and religious background with the enemy, Al-Qaeda. The 9/11 attacks resulted in backlash in the form of hate crimes, verbal attacks, intolerance and federal discrimination. The FBI reports that there was a 1600% increase in hate crime in the period following the 9/11 attacks. Within 36 hours of the terrorism attacks, vicious hate crimes had already began to take place against Muslim individuals and mosques in America that were totally unrelated to the perpetrators of the crime.
The backlash that had the most devastating effect on American Muslims was the government’s apparent support of the profiling against American Muslims. Though the government stated that hate crimes against Muslims should cease, its action indicated otherwise. For example, only a few weeks after the 9/11 attack, the government developed policies and laws targeting Middle Eastern and Muslims especially men. These new rules were meant to counter terrorism, but in the eyes of the public, they only justified the ongoing backlash. This was the most devastating type of backlash to the American Muslims because they felt discriminated against and shunned even by the government that was supposed to protect them. With the trust and support of the federal government gone, the Muslims were now a more vulnerable community. Backlash from all sectors of the society grew immensely.
The government’s racial profiling measures spread into various other domains, which resulted in Muslims being treated in a discriminatory manner. For instance, it is reported that an Arab-American applied for a mortgage through a real estate company but was denied, whereas he had been granted a loan by the same company before the 9/11 attacks. The company stated that they could not approve the mortgage because the man was a terrorist. In another case, an airline company prevented three Arab American men from boarding a plane because they would cause fear among other passengers. The rest of the society became as suspicious of Muslims as the U.S. government was. The government initiated ‘War on Terror’ further increased the immensity of the post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. It legitimized the mistreatment of Muslims as America invaded Afghanistan, torturing and killing innocent Muslims for the crimes of only a small fraction of Muslims.
In spite of all the negative impacts, which is one positive impact of the backlash against Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans? Give specific examples.
The backlash against Muslims that resulted after 9/11 made the Muslims feel vulnerable as a shunned minority group, hence Muslims from different ethnic backgrounds united to defend themselves against discrimination, as a result this increased their political strength. One of the positive outcomes of the backlash against Middle Eastern and American Muslims is that they became more united; they stood as a united front and vehemently defended themselves against the backlash. They did not resort to violence, but peacefully opposed the unwarranted backlash and stigmatization. American Muslims stated that they too were a part of the American community and strongly condemned the acts of violence and terrorism. Their strong resistance to backlash helped in reducing the ignorant beliefs that have for long been held about Muslims. For instance, a few days after 9/11, many Sikhs were physically attacked and some even murdered because they were confused to Al-Qaeda members due to their turbans and long beards. Due to the public protest and outcry after these killings, many Americans came to learn that Sikhs were a faction of the Hindu religion and had no links to Islam.
The backlash also emboldened Muslims to stand up for their rights and state clearly that they could not allow their fellow Americans to discriminate them for a crime that they were equally shocked about. American Muslims also united to show their patriotism towards America through issuing statements that express their oneness with the rest of the Americans during the period. These Muslim organizations strongly condemned the acts of terrorism, therefore showing other Americans and the world that they had no dealings with the Al-Qaeda and held different beliefs from the terrorists.
The unification of the Muslim community not only helped to reduce the ignorant views that some Americans held against Muslims, but also raised interest in the Islamic culture and religion. After the 9/11 attacks and consequent backlash, people’s interest in understanding Islam grew; the Koran became one of the highest selling religious books while man other non-Muslim Americans enrolled for Arabic.
The 9/11 backlash also led to the collapse of traditional Islamic organizations, which has accordingly led to the establishment of modern Islamic organizations which incorporate American cultures and beliefs. Modern American Muslims are thus more patriotic to the U.S. and loyal to the American way of life. The assimilation of American culture into Islam beliefs has therefore made it less possible for terrorist activities to flourish within the American Muslim community since they hold divergent beliefs and opinions.
The unification of Muslims under one organization also earned them respect from the rest of the American communities because they did not revenge but used the right legal methods to air the grievances and views. The American Muslims therefore proved that they were different from the Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in that they respected the laws of America and the rights of their fellow citizens. The American Muslim community demonstrated that they were indeed American in spirit because they remained loyal to their country despite being shunned. If they held radical Muslim beliefs, they would have used the stigmatization as an opportunity to side with the enemy, which they did not.