The treatment of Muslims has changed greatly after the 9/11 terror attack on America that left almost three thousand people dead. The situation has been different for the U.S citizens and resident aliens who are Muslims, those seeking to enter the United States and aliens within the U.S who are Muslims. Discrimination has been the most important problem to these categories of people, not the activities of antiterrorist measures which are distributed evenly among Muslims and non-Muslims. Concerns have arisen over whether the application of the traditional U.S. laws has disproportionately affected Muslims (Sandra 10). As a result, this paper will critically discuss the treatment of Muslims after the September 11, 2001 terror attack.
Discrimination against Muslims
Hate crimes committed against people who were perceived to be Muslims increased in America after the September 11, 2001 incident. Those from the Middle East and South Asian descent were particularly vulnerable. According to a publication in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, following the 9/11 attacks, the number of anti Muslim crimes in America rose from 354 to 1,501 (Levitt, 9). A study by Arab American Institute also reported an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during the same year. These crimes ranged from destruction of private property and violent threats and assaults to discrimination. In addition, deaths were also witnessed in some instances.
In a survey conducted in 2007, 53% of American Muslims felt that being a Muslim after the 9/11 attacks was more difficult. Discrimination, public ignorance of Islam, being viewed as a terrorist and stereotyping were the most common problems faced by Muslims. Although more than 60% of those surveyed were concerned about the increase in Islamic extremism around the world and in the U.S., 54% believed that anti-terrorists measures were singling out Muslims (Levitt, 11). Few cases of harassment of Muslim women wearing a distinctive “hijab” were reported, thus causing the women to abandon the practice temporarily or stay at home. Derogatory comments and some killings have been labeled as being religiously motivated, and concerns have arisen about discrimination of women wearing the hijab (Ramadan, 28).
A survey conducted by Zogby International and Georgetown University, indicated in 2004 that 26% of Muslims had been the target of ethnic or racial profiling. According to the Zogby figures, a more experienced phenomenon was a private discrimination (Levitt 6). The figures indicate that 40% of the Muslim respondents have been targets of anti-Muslim discrimination since the 2001 attacks, and most of these respondents know friends or relatives who have experienced discrimination at school, work, or in their neighborhood settings.
The general non-Muslim public possesses elements that would favor Muslim discrimination. Reports indicate that 55% of non-Muslim Americans do not have a clear understanding of Islam. 49% of them have an unfavorable view of Islam, while 31% believe that Islam is a religion of violence, especially towards non-Muslims (Sandra, 7). A large number of respondents harbor negative feelings about Islam, even though more than half do not understand the religion. Mosques have been attacked in California, Wisconsin and Tennessee, and Muslim Americans were put at a great risk by both the near Koran burning in Florida and the Islamic Center controversy by Ground zero (Ramadan, 10).
The Absconder Apprehension Initiative was announced in January, 2002, and is a program intended to locate, apprehend and deport alien absconders who have deportation orders against them, but who still remain in the U.S (Kaplan, 5). Absconders from countries of Al Qaeda activity or presence were the initial targets of the program, another practice of religious profiling. A publication of deportation figures by the Chicago Tribune confirmed the focus of deportation to be Muslims from Muslim countries. Other immigration law enforcement actions displaying high profiling have helped to further alienate the Muslim community from law enforcement. Central and critical laws in the administration of antiterrorism law enforcement are laws prohibiting material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations. However, these laws are unbiased to their face, as they are very broad. Muslims and Muslim charities have been victims of this broad scope of these laws (Kaplan 4).
Law Abiding Muslims
The level of fear has definitely increased among Muslims with the suspicious treatment they receive, hindering their freedom. Racism and anti-Muslim sentiments are common, and people deduce the religion of someone to be Islam based on their physical appearances or cultural markers such as the hijab (Ramadan, 11). These categories of people appear to be the Muslims, according to their attackers, and have been victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and discrimination. The vast majorities of the American Muslims are law-abiding and peaceful citizens, but live in fear of attacks from those who view them as terrorists. Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, there is no evidence of the Muslim Americans supporting Islamic extremism. On the contrary, they continue to reject extremism by larger margins than the Muslims elsewhere (Brown, 19).
In fact, many Muslims feel that their leaders have not done enough in challenging Islamic extremists. Far more, Muslim Americans view the United States efforts to fight terrorisms to be sincere than the case was in 2007 (Levitt, 3). They are cooperating as much as they should with law enforcement, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the people, and press, and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. However, life in post 9/11 is still hard in a number of ways. Some people report receiving offensive comments and being looked with suspicion. Passengers report being singled out by airport security, and others say they have been singled out by law enforcement. Overall, many feel that these anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring (Levitt, 10).
Even with these challenges, many Muslims refuse to be disillusioned with the country (Ramadan, 7). They are satisfied with their lives and still rate their communities as good places to live in. At individual levels, most think that ordinary citizens are either friendly or neutral towards Muslims; only a relatively small number believe that the general public is hostile towards Muslims. According to a survey carried out in 2007, very few Muslims support bombing and other forms of violence against civilians to defend Islam from its enemies. More than 80% believe that violence against civilian targets and suicide bombing are never justified (Levitt, 5). Only a small number of Muslim Americans have favorable views of Al Qaeda, and 70% harbor very unfavorable views of it.
Opposition to violence is broadly shared across many segments of the Muslim population. In addition, there is no relationship between support for suicide bombing and religiosity, such as attending the mosque or religious beliefs. However, support for extremism is varied among the different segments of Muslims (Sandra, 8). Muslims are similar to the rest of the public when it comes to other aspects of life. They admit that they follow professional or college sports, play video games, watch entertainment, and engage in other activities like any other group of people (Kaplan, 9). Comparable percentages say they have worked together with other people in their neighborhood to solve a problem or improve a situation in their communities.
Al Qaeda and Taliban troops known for committing acts of terrorism belong to the Muslim faith. In recent years, terror incidents involving the U.S. citizens who are Islamic radicals has increased. Involvement of the U.S citizens in some high profile international terrorists’ attacks, like the 2008 Mumbai incident, has prompted concerns about motivations of Islamic radicals in the U.S. This comes in the decade following the 9/11 terror attacks by Al Qaeda on the twin towers that claimed nearly three thousand lives (Brown, 10). How to combat Islamist terrorism is a question that has arisen increasingly and the U.S. law enforcement intelligence is faced with a challenge in identifying potential terrorists.
According to a Rand Corporation report of May, 2010, the U.S. stated forty six cases of recruitment to Jihad terrorism and radicalization involving at least 125 people between September 11, 2001 and 2009. According to the Rand report, a quarter of those cases had a link to major jihadist groups like Al Qaeda. Concerns have arisen due to the increasing number of Americans playing operational roles on a high level in Al Qaeda and other similar groups, as well as increasing numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups.
Cases of radicalization have risen since 2001, but assuming large scale radicalization of the U.S. Muslim population is cautioned. Cases of Muslims involved in plotting terror acts represent a comparably small minority of the entire Muslim population. Those involved in these acts all have a common motivation, hatred for the country, a level of dangerous malleability and a religious fervor justifying violence (Brown, 11). These individuals seem to be very impressionable and easily influenced towards dangerous acts of violence.
The situation seems to have improved since 2002, but a certain level of disconnect still exists among Muslims and the general public. Americans have a right to fear in a post 9/11 world, but acts of violence and bigotry against Muslims aggravates the problems than solving them (Kaplan 5). Deep seated perceptions and attitudes existing among Muslims and non-Muslims have helped fuel the alienation that has helped build the small but increasing number of Americans who are more susceptible to extremism. Experts have advised the government to improve their sources of intelligence on terrorist plots, and avoid the use of hard tactics and abuse of civil liberties that hinder trust building. Selective routine interviewing of Arab and Muslim men by the FBI following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has garnered criticism from human right activists labeling it unfair targeting of entire communities (Brown, 10).
The attempts to treat the whole group with suspicion may be aimed at reducing any danger by applying preventive steps to all members of the group. The fact that only a small group is dangerous does not make the attempts biased in intent, but they may appear inconsiderate for several reasons (Ramadan, 11). The entire group within which a search for a rare terrorist is made is marked as suspicious, an act that undermines the sense of shared citizenship on which individual loyalty and subsequent security is built. The most important concern after 9/11 is discrimination based on religious stereotyping. The use of an individual’s religious beliefs as one factor to consider in judging the extent of terrorist danger that is viewed to be motivated by a religious belief such as the Islamist movement may not be biased (Brown, 10). However, it is unwise considering the costs in terms of lives of American Muslims living under suspicion in their communities. The vast majority of Muslims do not pose any threat at all, and such discrimination should be rejected completely.
The discrimination seems inconsistent to the constitutional neutrality built in the constitution (Sandra, 4). It also affects the relationship with the countries where the aliens belong. Careful consideration should be given to any form of religious discrimination for which a clear case has not been established since the stakes are very high for those citizens, as well as the nation. The careful attention should also be given to forbidding such discrimination entirely in the case of the U.S. citizens (Kaplan, 6).