How 9/11 impacted the Muslim community


Today marks the horrific events that took place twenty years ago, as people all around the world watched in horror as jetliners were used like bombs to kill thousands of unsuspecting people. Everyone witnessed countless instances of self-sacrifice, where first responders and everyday citizens lost their lives in the quest to save others from burning buildings. 

A somber feeling was in the air as everyone mourned the loss of lives and sought ways to express condolences and give support to the family of the victims. As Americans continue to reflect on this solemn anniversary, it is critical for all to remember how precarious Muslims' existence in the United States has been, especially in the direct aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, where hate crimes against Muslims spiked 500 percent from 2000-2009. Consequently many Muslims have also been struggling with mental health, recent studies suggest. For example, Muslims are twice as likely, compared to other faith groups, to have attempted suicide

The events of 9/11 propelled our nation into two decades which resulted in more lives lost. Many organizations recognized how problematic the discriminatory policies and negative media portrayals of American Muslims had become in the wake of September 11th. For example, in 1994, Nihad Awad and other American Muslims sought to start America’s first organization for challenging common misconceptions about Islam and the people who practice it. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, initially pushed back on Hollywood depictions of Muslims and fought discrimination against women who wear hijabs to work, among other causes. Today, there are multiple chapters across the nation, including one in Chicago.

Recently, CAIR’s national headquarters held a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to outline the results of a nationwide survey of American Muslims about their perspectives and experiences over the past twenty years. A critical part of a new report released is a survey of American Muslims. The survey of over 1,000 American Muslims provided insights into the state of the community, including their perspectives on post-9/11 government activities such as wars overseas and surveillance policies here at home, their observations regarding issues such as anti-Muslim discrimination and media coverage of Islam, and how Muslims of different races and genders report different views and experiences.

Ultimately, the report notes examples of American Muslim resilience. It is evident through the report that Muslims are working to overcome some of the challenges that September 11th created for the country and the community in particular. This includes but is not limited to engaging in more interfaith activities, civil rights activism, and political engagement.

On this 20th anniversary, it is imperative to take this moment to reemphasize the importance of cohesion and unity to bring together all of our diverse communities, especially those that are marginalized. There should be no room for any allowance of bigotry and hate to continue to tear the fabric of our society, especially while people in our communities continue to face hate and violence in their everyday lives.

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I write about culture, politics, parenting, religion, and health. My work has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Vox and Prism Reports among others.

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