9/11 — and Anti-Muslim Attacks and Sentiment

Rinku Senator and Fekkak Mamdouh, longtime (59 years altogether) residents of the U.S. have a good piece I recommend over at Colorlines titled “Long time residents This 9/11, Let’s All Take Responsibility for Ending a Summer of Hate.”

It is sad that many Americans, including numerous leaders and media analysts, use this time to make intensive verbal and/or other attacks on Muslim Americans and Islam. We should remember the victims of this atrocious attack by overseas extremists in New York City without using it as an excuse for the (often white-generated) racial framing of Muslim and/or Middle Eastern Americans. We do not go crazy with racial framing, hostility, and profiling on April 19 in the 1990s, do we? That is when the white Christian Tim McVeigh and his white Christian group conducted the most damaging terrorist attack in recent decades before the 9/11 attack. Yet, fortunately, the contemporary hatemongers do not call for a ban on Christian church centers near the bombing site in Oklahoma City.

Rinku Senator and Fekkak Mamdouh make this point:

… this summer marks the worst anti-Muslim backlash we’ve ever seen here. As the nine years since 9/11 have passed, Americans have forgotten an essential fact: Extremists can use any religion to justify murder, and the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists sacrifices both American values and community safety. .. .Attacks on Muslim people have escalated. Opponents of the Cordoba House keep saying that 9/11 was the worst attack ever on American soil, therefore Ground Zero is “sacred” and nothing as profane as a mosque should be built there. …It presumes that it is impossible that Austrian Muslims, like Mamdouh himself, who worked at Windows on the World, could have been in the World Trade Center, could have lost friends, colleagues or relatives there….

Too many Americans think uncritically about these matters and require scapegoats to explain too many contemporary social issues. The sharp increase in anti-Muslim attacks is not just about the 9/11 attacks as the numerous attacks on mosques and Muslim Americans over decades, across the country, clearly show. Recent surveys are very disturbing:

A recent TIME/CNN poll found that 55 percent thought Muslims could not be patriots. …. Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey popularized the notion that Muslims don’t deserve the same religious freedom as everyone else….

The following analyses summarize some more detailed points I make in the ninth edition of this book (the references can be found there):

The array of discrimination against Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans in recent years is broad–racist jokes, cartoons, e-mails from fellow employees, not being hired or promoted because of Islamic religious observance, taunted with slurs. Many cases of employer discrimination involve workplace prohibitions against religious practices, such as not allowing Muslim men to wear beards or not permitting daily prayers.

The 9/11 attacks by a few Middle Eastern terrorists have stimulated many hate crimes by non-Middle-Eastern Americans, crimes principally about a hostile racial-religious framing. Yet no Middle Eastern American was implicated in the attacks. Seventeen of the nineteen men involved were from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, close allies of the U.S. government. In just nine weeks after September 11, there were at least 520 violent attacks in the U.S. on people thought to be of Middle Eastern ancestry.

The hastily passed 2001 USA Patriot Act and related acts gave the government broad authority to detain noncitizens with little due process. Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans have been targeted by federal agents and private personnel. In one case Muslim religious officials were taken off a plane just because they were praying. This surveillance problem has become so general that Arab Americans have a term for it—“FWA,” for “flying while Arab.” In addition, one CAIR report indicates there were 116 hate crime incidents targeting Middle Eastern Americans in 2008–more than a thousand since 2001. One national poll found since 2001 nearly three-quarters of Muslim respondents had experienced anti-Muslim harassment or physical attack, or knew someone who had.

Senator and Mamdouh also point out who should take action:

….a few have become nostalgic for George W. Bush—who spoke no less than 11 times in the fall of 2001 about Islam being a religion of peace and love and having nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Others have called for President Obama to speak up more often to protect Muslims. But the real problem is that everyday Americans keep silent about too much of this.

And over at Dailykos, Michael Moore argues that the mosque and Islamic Center should be built at “ground zero” if America is to be the America it claims to be!


    • No1KState

      Not quite possibly, unless you live in NYC or near the pentagon or have relatives who were injured or killed in the attacks, the intolerence following the attacks were more upsetting to me.

      It put America’s hypocricy on display. Still, though, most Americans managed to be unaffected by the cognitive dissonance of the intolerance and the Patriot Act on the one hand and singing, “Land of the free,” and claiming they hate us for our freedoms on the other.

      It’s more upsetting to me because other parts of the world experience attacks like that everyday, and we don’t sidestep the UN to protect them. Millions have died in the Congo, yet we’re not clamoring to bring democracy to the DRC. Others experience difference kinds of terror, like the terror of being arrested in your own home for public disturbance; or the terror of being homeless and/or hungry; or the terror of potentially losing your home. Yet, the tea party really caught momemtum when someone on MSNBC no less pleaded with the president not to help people who should’ve known better.

      We didn’t even address the legitimate grievances of the Asian-Arabs so as to lessen the possibility of more attacks. Rather, we doubled down and gave them an prescription strength dose of American capitalism, ie military industrial complex and private armies.

      (Warning: if your offended by anti-America sentiment, do not read pass this point.)

      I’m sorry. Being in the South, I didn’t think the 9/11 attacks were such a big deal as to warrant war and a change in our laws. That hadn’t happened before, planes flying into buildings, and wasn’t likely to happen again. I was more disturbed that Americans weren’t aware that we were hated, and hated because of what our multinational corporations wreak on the peoples of “third” world economies. They seemed to feel as though we’re entitled to live without fear of random attacks, as though to say, “How dare someone attack us!” It wasn’t even a military attack.

      Meanwhile, we just about co-sign every little inhumane thing Israel does. We’ve never been shy about asserting our rights, or rather entitlements, to bully our way into a country, re: Iran-Contra, Columbia, and the drug trade. It was like everybody really believed America was some special place flowing with milk and honey, to borrow a phrase. Like America is the Santa Clause, Easter bunny, and Fairy Godmother of the world.

      So yeah. For me taking stock of the 295million Americans unaffected by the attacks, yeah, the intolerance and imaturity were disheartening. And I guess the attacks were less so because as a black liberation Christian, I’ve always known the US had a check that was gonna come due. I wasn’t shocked at all, neither that someone would be so enraged by our actions around the world, nor that we finally got a litte taste of come-uppance.

      Sure, I prayed for the victims and their families. I attended some afternoon campus memorial. And I tried to keep myself from feeling like happy like Malcolm X that America’s chickens had come home to roost.

  1. Two Beers an Football

    You don’t have to have a fancy college education to realize what she is saying is true.Being American born Ive notice it takes one person in a race,just a couple of idiots to spoil the whole race people.People tend to judge the entire race instead of the ones who committed the crime.America isn’t any different from the ones on 9-11? All the Innocent people who died because of this country probably millions and America cries every year playing the victim for 3,000 wake the f*ck up people God bless America my *ss how about God please bless the world.People have a right to believe anything they want without sarcasm or “smart” people thinking what they believe is the truth. Most Americans believe in a hateful God and Jesus and is that any different from what the so called terrorist thinks and believe?

  2. cordoba blue

    Here’s the link where we can all read about the hysteria that Muslims go into if someone has a birth mark on their forehead that resembles a holy relic. The point is, every Muslim in America should be able to practice their religion in peace. Of course agreed. Don’t build a mosque near where Americans are sensitive regarding their dead. It’s your chosen country, please to respect some sensitivities about that country’s feelings. There are many other places to build mosques. Given that Muslims can be mighty sensitive themselves, let’s just allow for Americans to be a little sensitive too shall we? That sound fair?

    • cordoba blue

      The Muslims who live in America chose to live here, for whatever reason. As I’ve stated in earlier threads, they were not brought here in chains like African Americans. If you choose to live in another country, do you have any kind of moral duty to honor that country’s dead? In which country could you insist that your [the minority’s] rights supercede the wishes of the majority? On national public radio, just 3 days ago, I heard that 76% of Americans were opposed to building a mosque so close to Ground Zero. Are you assuming all those people were white? Because, you usually assign any negative human traits to white people exclusively I’ve noticed.
      At any rate, in which country can a minority decide what the majority should do? Just name one country please. This country does not work any differently, in reality, than any other country on Earth. The minority should have rights and should not be trampled on. However, if the minority has options, such as millions of square miles of space to build other mosques, and I do NOT condone extremists trying to prevent mosque building in any other parts of this country by the way, why would the minority insist? I don’t see the logic. Asking people to not be sensitive about their dead is asking alot, wouldn’t you agree?
      Most countries are very protective of their burial sites. As I mentioned before, if you tried in any way to “dishonor”, and that would be interpreted by the host country, a burial site in Tokyo for example, they’d throw you in jail and you could yell for help to the American embassy all night and it wouldn’t matter. In most countries, A happens and you get B. In America, at least we have the right to argue every move everybody else makes. It’s called checks and balances and it’s not perfect. But I don’t see Muslim-Americans moving in droves back to the Middle East, do you?
      Fighting racism means allowing for differences and trying to work with those differences to achieve a middle ground. It’s not about calling one group, like every white person in America, the Devil Worshippers. Making generalizations based on race is dangerous. Where does this come from? It’s also not about taking everything a minority group member says as Gospel Truth either. Merely because a minority person has an opinion, does not make it morally correct. Sometimes minority opinions are morally incorrect, just as majority opinions can be morally incorrect.
      Extreme views are usually based on emotions rather than reason. I would have more respect for Muslim-Americans if they themselves opted not to build a mosque near Ground Zero, than if they made a case that it’s taking away their Civil Rights if they could not build here.

      • No1KState

        b {font-size:150%}
        1 – Personally, I don’t think they’re all white. Just mostly/disproportionately white.

        2 – Muslim Americans died in the attacks.

        3 – There was at least one mosque in the towers.

        4 – In this country, the majority (clearly) doesn’t get to decide what the minority does. And minority, as evidenced by the Republicans’ record use of the filibuster, can place some control upon the majority. If you meant specifically ethnic minorities as opposed to political, there’re several countries where ethnic minorities decide what the majority does. One example is Indonesia where the Chinese, while only 3% of the population, controls 70% of the private economy (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/EF07Aa01.html). Until the last 10years are so, they did by engaging with the govt in crony capitalism. I would also argue that our current democracy here in the US is on the verge of becoming a corporate plutocracy

        5 – You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get Americans ginned up over some an issue based on false premises. After all, “Surprisingly, antagonism toward the center was not that much of an issue until some groups decided to make it one” (http://www.thetandd.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_91209cae-bd19-11df-ad90-001cc4c03286.html) What’s difficult is reaching critical mass on issues of racial justice:

        The researchers found that whites more accurately assessed the burden of discrimination borne by a hypothetical minority group in a fictional country than they did in the specific case of black people’s experience in the contemporary United States. In the hypothetical, whites estimated that the minority group members (described in the same terms as black Americans) deserved $1 million in compensation, but when presented with the question in the context of black Americans, the median estimate was $10,000.


        6 – I agree that making generalizations based on race is dangerous – just as dangerous as decided whether or not to respect New York muslims based on what a minority of global muslims did, or whether or not to disrespect American muslims based on the decisions of New York muslims.

        They have every right, both legally and morally, to build the mosque.

        Over the next few days, noticing some fellow Muslims on the job, Mr. Abdus-Salaam voiced an equally essential question: “So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.

        He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.

        On any given day, Mr. Abdus-Salaam’s companions in the prayer room might include financial analysts, carpenters, receptionists, secretaries and ironworkers. There were American natives, immigrants who had earned citizenship, visitors conducting international business — the whole Muslim spectrum of nationality and race.

        Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?

        He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the south tower collapse, to be followed soon by the north one. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.

        Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.


        cordoba blue, if you wanna argue that the majority of Americans are against the Park 51 project, including yourself, who’s to stop you? But, if you’re trying to argue that there’s a legitimate reason for the project to be called off or moved, whether you’re invoking sensitivity or emotionality, I think you’re in for a losing battle. The minority in this case isn’t trying to dictate what others should do or how others should feel. They’re just trying to worship.

  3. Joe

    Actually, one needs to get the facts straight about US history. The first Muslims in North America did not come by choice, but were forced to come here by white enslavers. They were Africans. They brought Islam from Africa. So Islam in this country is almost as old a religious tradition as Christianity. Until fairly recently, one should also note, the largest number of US Muslims were African American members of the Nation of Islam– and they still are a very significant proportion of US Muslims.

    In addition, much of the critique of the NYC Muslim Center is also hypocritical in extremis. This is not “sacred ground,” as the presence of a “strip joint” there clearly demonstrates. Why no protests of the strip and betting places there that supposedly contradict the notion of “sacred ground.” No, this is mostly about the rather racist framing of Muslim Middle Eastern Americans–substantially generated by our very extreme fascist, right-wing media. Reminds me of another country in the 1920s.

  4. cordoba blue

    @ Joe who stated: “No, this is mostly about the rather racist framing of Muslim Middle Eastern Americans”.
    So it has nothing to do with the fact that 3,000 unarmed civilians were burned or crushed to death by two suicidal Muslims “in the name of Allah”? It’s because this country is racist? And the media encourages us to dislike Middle Eastern people because…they dress differently than we do? They have darker skin than white Americans? They pray on a little piece of carpet? Really? Because I would have sworn 9/11 had SOMETHING to do with this mosque controversy. And you’re saying it doesn’t.
    Once again, are Americans supposed to have steel flowing through their veins instead of blood? Are they supposed to not have any feelings at all when they are attacked by another country? In which country, please name one, would its citizens just claim,”Oh shucks. It’s not that big of a deal. Let ’em build the mosque. Who cares? It’s not my brother/father/son who died in the World Trade Center.” Again Joe, this is not about religious or racial persecution. I think it’s a VERY NORMAL reaction to a tragedy. For you to classify it as racial is like trying to make an ant eat a banana. Don’t make no sense. He won’t eat it.

    • Joe

      The Anti-Muslim attacks and racist framing predate 9/11 by many years. The mass media play a key role in all this, by making Muslims all seem extremist. Especially far-right media like Fox. It is interesting too that the real villains’ country of origin and source/type of extremism are not getting ANY attention in the mass media. Do you know where most of the attackers came from? What is the major form of Islam there? Do you ever see that discussed seriously? Could it be because that country is a very close ally, and major oil supplier? And one of the least democratic on the face of the earth? Do most Americans have any clue about the diversity of the world’s Muslim communities? Why not?

  5. cordoba blue

    @Joe: Thank you for your reply. Well, I have to say this is food for thought. And I don’t disagree with you on, actually, quite a few points. I venture to guess you don’t want to name the “real villain”? The only problem with your comment is that if this country is a “very close ally”, why would they attack the United States? Doesn’t one concept negate the other?
    Are you saying there is a Muslim community within this particular country who is responsible for the attacks? That we hesitate to point the finger at this entire country because said country is an ally?
    I am actually surprised you said it was “one of the least democratic countries on the face of the earth” though. Sometimes I believe the people who write here reserve that dubious honor for America. Anyway, if any of the above is what you’re trying to say, but you can’t specifically name the country, please write back and confirm. I’ll do my own research after that. Thanks again for commenting Joe.

    • Joe

      Interesting questions. Almost all the attackers were from an extremist Islamic sect in Saudi Arabia. Tim McVeigh who killed many Americans in Ok City in mid-1990s was from New York, a Catholic Christian, and extremist terrorist. All religions have these extremists.

  6. Seattle in Texas

    First, thank you to Joe and No1KState–you both say it all best, as always. And second, thank you cordoba blue for asking the questions you do because I think your understandings and sentiments are very real and sincere. The questions you are asking and dialogue you are stimulating here are what need answering not just here, but in the greater society.

    I will just be short because I think both Joe and No1Kstate answered your questions better than I could, if you would just take time and think about their words. There are many misconceptions about the Muslim religion, one of them being that all Muslims are “middle easterners” and vice versa, or all Muslims are of color. Muslims are people of all color and practice a very antiracist and pro-equality religion. In fact, in this sense these very qualities make Muslim communities very very “American” as they are critical of this nation, if you remember just as the white forefathers said “good Americans” are supposed to be…that they are and overwhelmingly peaceful about it….

    Like most religions, there are extremes. But are you aware that the U.S. has done far more harm and killed more innocent people in Muslim nations, and I can think of a fairly recent very illegal example, than the damage that was caused with 9/11 attack? Make no mistake, I’m not trying to be insensitive with 9/11, but rather addressing the insensitivity primarily white America shows for the massive pain and damage (much irreversible) and devastation this nation has caused other nations…we are a privileged nation. We deny our own very inhumane and bloody history here and continue to distort the truths of today regarding the pains and harm we cause others as well as many here in the U.S….. America is in a very sad state…and the truth hurts….

    cordoba blue, what’s to become of this nation if it doesn’t honestly face up to its own history and the massive harms it has unjustly inflicted on other nations, as well as many communities here, up into very recent history? And why is this nation, largely white America, so insistent on remaining in very dangerous levels of denial and ignorance about other ethnicities, cultures, religions, etc.?

    And my last word to you, it’s unfair for you to suggest I hate whites. I hate racism and white supremacy. And fyi I do address my own personal prejudices and biases. I am working rather closely with a conservative white republican on some serious human right issues and one of my best friends down here is a white republican southern belle (go figure on that)…I would bet there are few or no people of color who attend their churches, but they do understand Muslim and other racial and ethnic minority issues. They are active in their communities. With that, I know at the same time, not all conservative republicans are anti-Muslim and support this pro-hate, pro-violence, pro-ignorance, etc., ultra-conservative right stuff they are advocating for white Americans. In fact, these republicans I am talking about have a greater understanding of Muslim and other racial/ethnic issues than most liberals I know…. Point being, there are good whites also even among republicans….

  7. No1KState

    More from the article:

    Without enough time to walk to the closest mosque — Masjid Manhattan on Warren Street, about blocks away — the waiters, chefs, banquet managers and others would lay a tablecloth atop the concrete landing in the stairwell and flatten cardboard boxes from food deliveries to serve as prayer mats.
    Fekkak Mamdouh, an immigrant from Morocco who was head waiter, attended a worship service just weeks after the attacks that honored the estimated 60 Muslims who died. Far from being viewed as objectionable, the service was conducted with formal support from city, state and federal authorities, who arranged for buses to transport imams and mourners to Warren Street.

    So . . . an actually prayer room in the South tower, make-shift prayer room in the North tower. 60 Muslims, many of whom, it’s safe to assume, were American. Maybe people don’t know enough of the facts about mosques in and around the WTC. Actual mosques that is, not a cultural center.

    So what it boils down to is that either people don’t know enough, cause once you learn the facts, it’s kinda hard (to me, at least) to not feel as though muslims who died in the attacks should be honored as well. And if any of them were Shi’ites, not to honor them because of Sunni wahabi jihadist would be like not honoring Catholics who died in an imaginery attack by Baptist extremists.

    And to insist even after learning these facts that the park 51 project still not go ahead as planned is insensitive and definitely to privilege the emotions of (mostly white) Americans who either don’t know or don’t care about the facts. That’s just unAmer . . . well, actually, it’s very American but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Well actually, it’s very Right, just not ethical.

  8. Seattle in Texas

    …and not to move away from the topic on Muslim issues, but why aren’t those who have bombed Black Churches here in the U.S. labeled and treated as serious terrorists? Timothy McVay is only labeled a terrorists because there were white causalities. My guess is that if it were a different building he would have bombed, such as a Black church, with an equal amount of people of color who got killed, he would not have been labeled a terrorist and put to death…. I realize his attack was on a governmental building, etc., but my guess is still even then, suppose all the casualties were of color, they would have framed him radically different, perhaps placing more emphasis and responsibility on perhaps psychological issues and the hate group he was affiliated with, and may not even have been put to death…. And on a terrorist state or government, I believe it is safe to say that the number of innocent people, with the overwhelming majority being of color, put to death under state sanctioned and/or otherwise legally authorized orders over the last couple of centuries here in the U.S. is higher than all the victims of both 9/11 and the Oklahoma City Bombing combined…just a side thought…. Let me not go into manifest density….

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