19 years after the ghastly tragedy of 9/11, civil rights remains the major problem for the seven-million-strong American Muslim Community.
The Covid-19 Pandemic shut down the US economy and disturbed the social life however even in this challenging times American Muslims were victims of hate crimes, discrimination and Islamophobia. Almost two decades after 9/11, American Muslims still dealing with the fall out of this tragic event.
Following Trump’s 2016 election, American Muslims experienced a spike in hate crimes, according to data from the FBI. American Muslim leaders attributed the spike to anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused by Trump and some of his close associates.
Here are few examples from recent months:
President Trump re-tweeted a post by an anti-Muslim bigot critical of former vice president Joe Biden for engaging in outreach to American Muslim voters and pledging to end the Muslim Ban. Trump retweeted a July 21st post by Paul Sperry, who wrote, “BREAKING: Biden wishes public schools taught more about Islam; promises Muslims he will end terrorism-related ban on immigration from high-risk Islamic nations “on Day One.”” According to Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, Sperry has blamed Islam for the spread of the Ebola virus, called former President Barack Obama the “defender-in-chief of Islam,” warned of an “Islamic fifth column” growing inside America, accused tax reform activist Grover Norquist of “ties to militant Muslim activists,” and written multiple debunked books attacking Islam and Muslims.
In June, President Trump appointed former Breitbart writer, white supremacist sympathizer and anti-Muslim bigot Sebastian Gorka to the National Security Education Board. The 14-member National Security Education Board provides strategic consultation and oversight for the National Security Education Program. This program develops expertise for the U.S. federal government workforce and also provides grants to universities and scholarships for students to study languages and regions critical to national security.
In an apparent Islamophobia remark, MSNBC host Joy Reid, in her August 31 night program, said:
When leaders, let’s say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence, including on their own bodies, in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy, we in the U.S. media describe that as, ‘They are radicalizing those people,’ particularly when they’re radicalizing young people. That’s how we talk about the way Muslims act. When you see what Donald Trump is doing, is that any different from what we describe as radicalizing people? Trump condemned Reid’s remarks, though somewhat inaccurately, tweeting, “The very untalented Joy Reid should be fired for this horrible use of the words ‘Muslim Terrorists.’
On September 8, American Muslim groups expressed deep concerns over a slew of Islamophobic and Anti-Semitic social media posts by Dallas area physician, Michael Robles. Dr. Robles is a physician who works at American Pathology Partners (AP2) and Alliance Diagnostics. He posts regularly on Jihad Watch, a hate website run by notorious anti-Muslim bigot, Robert Spencer. His posts include: (1) “The hard hearted and stiff-necked Jews do not believe in the Holy Trinity. They believe in a different god. Their rejection begins from the beginning they will suffer, see Amos. They are antichrist. They follow the evil one.” (2) “Islam false god false prophet false Quran false Christ – Islam is the anti-Christ, born from deception and follows Satan. Pure death and lies in Islam.” (3) “Never trust a Muslim who actively practices and follows the Quran.”
Politicians have added fuel to the fire of anti-Islam sentiments in the United States. Islamophobia has become a campaign tool used to galvanize voters. The heightened rhetoric has exposed an alarming trend that has developed after 9/11. Muslims are constantly and consistently cast as somehow un-American because of their faith.
Muslim Americans have expressed concern and alarm after Republican candidate Laura Loomer—who has described herself as a “proud Islamophobe” and called Islam a “cancer”— won her primary in Florida, earning praise from President Donald Trump, the Newsweek reported on August 19. Loomer, 27, won the GOP primary for Florida’s 21st District, home to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The far-right activist has previously been banned from multiple social media platforms because of her extreme rhetoric. She will now face Democratic Representative Lois Frankel, who is widely expected to win, on November 3. But even if Loomer’s chances of beating Frankel appear remote, Muslim Americans are worried about a Republican Party that appears to be increasingly open to overtly Islamophobic candidates and viewpoints.
On August 29, Republican Mitch Swoboda, who is running to represent the 37th district of Michigan, shared an Islamophobic meme on Facebook equating the wearing of face masks to protect persons from COVID-19 infection with the false trope that women lack rights of personal choice within Islam. The meme states, “That’s why they [Arabs] imposed on every woman the mandatory use of a fabric over her face. Then Islam turned it into the woman’s symbol of submission to Allah, the man owner of the Harem, and the King.”
Hate Crimes against American Muslims
An Arab-American teenager in New York was assaulted on August 13 with a baseball bat. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called this “an anti-immigrant, anti-Arab, and racially charged attack.” The victim was identified as Tarek Elsayed, an 18-year-old Egyptian-American.
Somaia Harrati, a 17-year-old American Moroccan Muslim woman wearing hijab, was assaulted with a bottle of urine and Islamophobic slurs on August 10 in Bronx, New York. The NYPD was urged to initiate a hate crimes probe in the Islamophobic incident.
On July 2, 2020, in New York, Rashid Hassan, a Pakistani taxi driver, was assaulted and yelled “Go back to your country.” The police and an ambulance were called to the scene. Mr. Hassan was taken to the hospital and may need surgery on his eye to prevent blindness due to a blood clot resulting from the assault. Another driver nearby recorded the incident and provided the footage to the responding officers.
A 50-year-old Muslim man was assaulted outside the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on August 6-night. The victim was walking to Dar Al-Farooq when two people described as being in their late teens or early twenties approached and assaulted him, according to police. The victim suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was transported to Fairview Southdale Hospital.
On September 9, Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a Muslim man in that state by an alleged attacker who is shown shouting “Go back to your country” during the incident. The assault was captured on video.
Even kids were blamed. The Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth (CAIR-DFW), a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on February 26 released a new report, “Singled Out: Islamophobia in the Classroom and the Impact of Discrimination on Muslim Students” indicating that 48 percent of respondents say they experienced some type of bullying — nearly double the national average. CAIR-DFW’s report examines how Muslim students feel about their school environment, about identifying as Muslim and the extent of anti-Muslim bullying and harassment students experience.
In short, years after 9/11 terrorist attacks, American Muslims remain on the receiving end.
On the positive note
It was perhaps a historic moment for American Muslims when in July the House voted to repeal the Trump administration’s travel ban and further restrict the president’s power to limit entry to the U.S. This was a symbolic victory for Muslim American and civil rights groups as the measure is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it has no GOP support. The bill, which passed the Democrat-controlled House 233-183, had initially been slated for action in March, before the coronavirus forced scheduling changes on Capitol Hill.
Since taking office in 2017, The Trump administration has continuously targeted immigrants and communities of color. Despite the recognition that white supremacist violence is a serious issue, the administration continues to focus on suppressing the rights of minority and immigrant communities. The xenophobic immigration agenda of the administration was furthered earlier this year when additional countries, mainly in Africa, were added to the Muslim Ban.
In June 2020, a bill was introduced in the Assembly of the State of California, saying that the Assembly joins communities throughout the State of California in recognizing the month of August 2020 as American Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month. The resolution pointed out that approximately one million American Muslims currently reside in California, the highest number of any state in the United States and the American Muslim community is recognized as having made innumerable contributions to the cultural, political, and economic fabric and well-being of California and the United States.
As a positive outcome of constant pressure, the American Muslims became active politically and created alliances with other ethnic and faith groups.
National Muslim Voter Registration Day: On August 28, 2020, American Muslim activists across the country rallied their communities to participate in National Muslim Voter Registration Day to impact the 2020 presidential election.MPower Change, in collaboration with grassroots organizations, launched the #MyMuslimVote campaign to promote a nationwide virtual registration drive. Participating organizations have already reached out to nearly half a million registered Muslim voters, and are sending email and text message reminders to encourage American Muslims to vote in person or by mail. American Muslims, along with other minority communities, could help vote President Donald Trump out of the White House and usher in Democratic contender Joe Biden, MPower Change Executive Director Linda Sarsour told CNN.
The Trump campaign in mid-August launched Muslim Voices for Trump. Also introduced at that time were similar coalitions for voters who identify as Indian, Hindu and Sikh. A Trump campaign site targeted to Muslim supporters includes a sign-up form, but no policy initiatives are listed. “Muslim Voices for Trump will energize and mobilize the Muslim community in re-electing President Donald J. Trump by sharing the many successes of the Trump Administration,” the site states. “Re-electing President Trump will ensure the protection of religious liberties, economic prosperity, and educational opportunities for Muslims in America.”
Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim Americans: In a bid to attract the American Muslim vote, Joe Biden, Democratic Presidential nominee Joe appointed a Senior Advisor for Muslim Engagement on his presidential campaign and issued a special paper saying “Muslim-Americans are essential to the American fabric, and working with Muslim-American communities is critical to ensuring that Muslim-Americans are uplifted and empowered, and that their issues of concern are addressed within our democracy.” Muslim-Americans are a diverse, vibrant part of the United States, making invaluable cultural and economic contributions to communities all across the nation. But they also face real challenges and threats in our society, including racially-motivated violence and Islamophobia. Joe Biden pledged to work closely with Muslim-Americans to address the needs and legitimate concerns of the Muslim-American community. As President, he will: protect Muslim-American constitutional and civil rights; honor the diversity of Muslim-American communities; ensure adequate healthcare; create a safe learning environment; rebuild our economy with a more resilient, more inclusive middle class; and make communities safer.
Meanwhile, a coalition of Muslim Democratic delegates has rejected the Democratic National Convention’s proposed party platform, in particular for not pushing for the U.S. to end military aid to Israel and sanctions on Iran, the Religious News Service (RNS) reported on August 4. The Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition is urging all delegates to vote against approving the platform during this week’s vote. The coalition was recently formed in hopes of pushing the party to “take more decisive action to improve U.S.-Muslim relations.” The coalition is made up of 100 DNC national delegates, including some from Virginia, New Mexico and Texas, among other states.
Muslim voters concerned about civil rights: A coalition of national Muslim organizations on August 25 released the results of a pre-election “Muslims in America Policy Poll” – an online survey of 1,500 Muslims in America that highlights issue and policy priorities of the Muslim community just months before the 2020 General Election. The poll was created and distributed through a partnership of Muslim organizations, including America Indivisible, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Emgage USA, Jetpac, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), MPower Change and Poligon Education Fund — consolidating efforts to educate and mobilize a Muslim constituency.
Mosques across America dedicate Friday sermons to confronting racism, police brutality: On Friday, June 5, a wave of mosques dedicated their Jummah sermons to preaching against anti-black racism and police brutality, following urgent calls from black Muslim leaders to publicly speak up with a “Day of Outrage.” Led by Imam Jihad Saafir of inner-city community center Islah LA, a coalition of black Muslim leaders in California has suggested that, in Friday sermons and talks, Islamic organizations address racism and that they also address it in letters of solidarity with black Americans.
George Floyd’s killing was a final straw for thousands of Americans protesting against police brutality and systemic police racism. Muslim leaders say it may also, at long last, prove to be a tipping point for non-black Muslim communities, according to Aysha Khan of Religious News Service. “This has been a rough week, a rough two months for Black Muslims who have been deeply impacted by police brutality and mass incarceration,” said Margari Aziza Hill, co-founder of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. “We are in mourning, we are tired, we are angry, we are mobilizing.”
Display of Religious Bigotry by Hindutva in NY’s Times Square denounced: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on August 5 joined the “Stop Genocide in India” coalition in condemning the use of New York’s Times Square to promote the far-right Indian government’s embrace of militant Hindutva ideology, which has resulted in the destructive and deadly rise of anti-Muslim bigotry across India. On August 5, 2020–exactly one year to the day that India revoked article 370, removing Kashmir’s autonomy–Indian PM Modi laid the foundation stone for the building of a Hindu Temple at the site of the 16th century Babri Mosque Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state. The mosque was destroyed by militant Hindu extremists in 1992 and ushered in nationwide pogroms, resulting in the murder more than 2,000 Muslims. Special interest groups sympathetic with Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) policies purchased ads in Times Square to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone.
American Muslims join the nation in commemorating the 19th anniversary of this ghastly tragedy with an optimism that the state of present anti-Muslim campaign will subside in due course of time as happened during the Second World War with the Japanese Americans who also endured similar national intolerance, social prejudice and legal injustice.