An American Identity Within the Post-9/11 Space
Similar to their adaptive practices regarding immigration and geopolitical acts, the post-9/11 space continues to enhance the difficulties of Muslim Americans in their attempt to identify with both aspects of their identity: as Muslims and, equally, as Americans.
Because the Al-Qaeda responsible for this horrific terrorist attack practiced Islam, the previously focused Arab-American discrimination was refocused towards Muslims specifically. Performing research for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, Khan and Ecklund discovered that there was a “1,700 percent increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans between 2000 to 2001.” In addition, the FBI tapped citizens' phones to gather political information, deportations rapidly increased, and emigrants from the Middle East were restricted.
Writing to Congress about the situation, the manuscript to the left is a press release sourced from the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. In this manuscript, The Islamic Society of North America—along with twelve other religious organizations—expressed their concern “over the civil liberties, including religious freedoms, threatened by the combating terrorism bills presently under consideration.” Released on October 22, 2001, this press release was issued just four days before the PATRIOT (Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act was signed into law. Thus, it is probable that one of the acts that were considered to have “gone too far” was the Patriot Act. This act granted the government the right to surveil citizens' phones without their knowledge, although it contradicted Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution. Planning to stop terrorist acts before they transpired, these surveillances were completed without warrants.
As a result of the legality of citizen surveillance as provided jurisdiction by this act, criminal profiling of Al-Qaeda caused Muslim communities both within the U.S. and abroad to be surveilled in a greater measure than their fellow U.S. citizens. Haddad discusses how the CIA monitored textbooks in Muslim countries for non-western content, in addition, to monitoring aid from NGOs and mosques, a longer discussion in Not Quite American (43). Many Muslim Americans were detained without warrants, and they continued to be the victims of hate crimes committed by their fellow citizens.
Coincidentally, an exception added to the Fourth Amendment concerned the Muslim American community; thus, they became determined to protect their First Amendment rights to continue freely practicing Islam. Therefore, they stated, “additional safeguards must be added to this legislation,” and that, “innocent people should only be put at risk after a very strong case has been made that is necessary for national security.”
In 2004, Christopher Henzel—current U.S. ambassador to Yemen—argued against this approach, stating, “if main-stream Sunnis come to view the United States as bent on a campaign to weaken or remake traditional Muslim culture, then more and more main-stream Sunni believers will conclude that the revolutionary Salafists they once reviled were right all along. At that point, the world really would see the clash of civilizations sought by both al Qaeda and some US pundits."
In another text, “Post-9/11: Making Islam an American Religion,” collaborating with colleague Harb from Georgetown, Haddad discussed that in 2007, “47% of American Muslims surveyed identified Islam as their primary allegiance above that of nation and citizenship.” Therefore, although supported by the Muslim community, “with attendance at religious services increas[ing] dramatically,” post-9/11 as noted in the press release to the left, even the death of bin Laden in 2013 did not cause Islamophobia to cease its influence on the experiences of the Muslim American community.
Nonetheless, as a result of Islam continuing to be targeted as a dangerous religion, the Muslim American community has focused its efforts on educating fellow Americans on the values and principles of Islam.
This archive on the left displays an instance of unity between the Abrahamic religions—seldom seen throughout this community's adaptative process to American culture. With nine different Christian, Quaker, and United Universalist groups approving the ISNA’s letter to Congress, this archive also represents an aspect of hope to the Muslim American experience: interfaith dialogue.
Although the events surrounding September 11, 2001, are widely known, the hidden history of this collection lies in the Muslim American community's difficulty in the U.S., both with laws that hinder their growth as a community, icy interfaith relations, and the labeling perpetuated by the general public. With Islam diffusing into the U.S. at an early age of our country's establishment, the ability for Muslims to identify as Americans without being expected to continually prove their allegiances should be intuitive.
Unfortunately, the scholarship in this area continues to prove that it is not the case. Thus, this begs the question of what being an American means, and how fellow Americans can grow their perspectives on Islam to begin forging an empathetic relationship in the age of inclusivity.