How Being Muslim In America Has Changed Since 9/11

Source: Huffington Post

By Antonia Blumberg

Associate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post

The terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 reverberated around the world long after that fateful morning.

Americans of all stripes grappled with the image of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, and unfurling a blanket of dust and debris on New York City. They grieved the lives lost, came together to rebuild and sought answers as to why anyone would commit such an act of hatred.

Within days of the attacks, many had found a convenient scapegoat. Muslims, Arabs and anyone who remotely resembled the terrorists seen on TV, whether in feature, dress or accent, became targets of retaliation. That stereotyping exists to this day.

I hoped they wouldn’t even remember that I was Muslim.”Shawna Ayoub Ainslie

“I stopped reading the Qur’an between classes,” wrote Muslim blogger Shawna Ayoub Ainslie in 2015. “I used to wear comfortable, loose clothes that covered my arms and legs. [After Sept. 11], I kept the headscarf I carried for prayer hidden in my purse instead of draped around my neck… I began pushing up my sleeves when in groups so people would not worry that I was conservative. I hoped they wouldn’t even remember that I was Muslim.”

Muslims, like people of other faiths, are not a monolith. And the experience of being Muslim in America ranges widely, depending on age, gender, location and a host of other factors. It also isn’t one solely defined by an act of terror 15 years ago.

But Sept. 11 had a tremendous impact on Muslim American communities. Research shows that Muslim Americans were doubly traumatized, first by the attacks themselves and then again by the violent backlash toward their communities that ensued.

This misplaced retaliation began almost immediately. In 2002, FBIreported that incidents targeting people, institutions and businesses identified in some way with Islam increased by at least 1,600 percent. The report noted that prior to 2001, Muslims had been among the least-targeted religious groups.

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