News

    America's Muslims after 9/11

    The 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States have had a worldwide impact. The effect on the Islamic world has been especially complex because the terrorists were Muslims.

    The United States has an estimated six million Muslims. More than half of them are Arabs. Muslims living in this country are more educated and tend to have higher incomes than average Americans. Unlike Muslim minorities in Europe, American Muslims are generally more assimilated into mainstream society.

    When terrorists struck New York and Washington five years ago, U.S. Muslims were as shocked and horrified as other Americans. But in addition to coping with terror, many Muslims say they had to deal with the pain of being shunned by their fellow Americans.
    "You would walk down the street and you could be physically attacked," says Nidal Ibrahim is Executive Director of the Arab-American Institute in Washington.

    "Unfortunately, Sikhs wear turbans and they were mistakenly taken for Arabs and you had some who were outright shot and killed, specifically in Arizona. So you had some violent actions. And then you had job discrimination increase dramatically," says Ibrahim. "You also had racial profiling, whether in the health care sector or service sector. So you had those issues as well."

    9/11 Backlash

    Ibrahim says some anti-terrorist measures, such as the surveillance of Muslim charity organizations and limiting the number of visas for immigrants, students and visitors from Muslim countries, have added to the feeling of unease among many American Muslims. Ibrahim says they reacted in different ways.

    "One of two things happens. Either you become emboldened and recognize that, as a community, we must engage in ways that we have not previously engaged to inform our fellow Americans and to affect the political process here," says Ibrahim. "And we have seen that happen. And, in other instances, we have also seen some folks who have basically decided to withdraw from public and political life who are perfectly content to just go to work, come home and take care of their families."

    Analysts note that many Muslims have made efforts to prove their loyalty to the United States. A number of Muslim organizations throughout the country have issued statements, including Islamic fatwas, or religious pronouncements, condemning terrorism. Some have turned to their own communities for support or become more religious. Analyst Nidal Ibrahim says that groups once identified as Egyptian-Americans, Lebanese-Americans or Palestinian-Americans have bonded into a wider Arab-American community, which he says is becoming more politically active.

    But while some feel they are victims of discrimination, many U.S. Muslims say that in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, their fellow Americans have also been supportive. Since 2001, America's interest in Islamic culture has grown. The Koran has become one of the bestselling books and the demand for Arabic language lessons is unprecedented.

    Kamal Nawash, President of the Free Muslim Coalition, an organization that promotes modernizing Islam, says American Muslims have not engaged enough in fighting terrorism and denouncing radical Islamist ideology.

    "We have a failure in Muslim leadership. And that is: rather than admit that we have a problem and try to deal with it -- and that is the problem with extremism -- most American Muslim organizations took the victimization mentality and rather than recognizing that we have a problem, instead, accused anyone who noticed the obvious -- that there is a problem -- they accused him of being anti-Muslim," says Nawash.

    Decline of Traditional Muslim Organizations

    In addition, Nawash says that investigations of many Islamic organizations after the September 11th attacks were justified and many of them deserved to be closed.

    "I think one good thing that happened is that September 11th weakened many of the traditional Muslim organizations and many of the Muslim charities. They have become either much weaker or just closed down altogether," says Nawash. "By the traditional Muslim organizations I mean those whose main goal in life was to advocate political Islam and create these theocracies, or what they call the Caliphate. Those Muslim organizations and their ability to impact other Muslims have been seriously reduced, in particular in the United States. And we think that's a good thing."

    Nawash says the weakening of traditional Islamic organizations has made room for new ones that recognize the importance of American values and democratic institutions. It has also made formation of home-grown Islamist terrorist cells less likely, he says.

    But some analysts are concerned that a new generation of Muslims is more religious and more traditionalist than their parents. Many young Muslim women born in the United States now wear traditional attire that their Egyptian-born or Pakistani-born mothers left behind. Young Muslims increasingly attend Islamic schools and lectures. And Muslim student organizations are proliferating in high schools and university campuses across the country.

    Many analysts point out that the role of American mosques has evolved from strictly a place of worship to a center for socializing, and teaching Islamic culture, languages and values. And some Americans worry that this trend could radicalize some Muslims.
    But Parvez Ahmed, Chairman of the Council on American-Islamic relations, one of the nation's oldest Islamic advocacy groups, says those fears are unfounded.

    "Of course, the American Muslim community is very concerned about the continuing war in Iraq, the violence in the Middle East, a lack of resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the recent war in Lebanon and the general politics of the situation," says Ahmed. "But you [i.e., U.S. Muslims] are using legitimate political methods of voicing your concerns, not in the sense of using any kind of radical thought or organization."

    As more American Muslims consider Islam an integral part of their character -- above any national identity -- analysts say it is important to ensure that all Americans are integrated into mainstream society.

    This story was first broadcast on the English news program,VOA News Now. For other Focus reports click here.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora