On this second anniversary of September 11th, as Americans, we reflect on the tragic events that took place. We think of our loved ones and cherish our time with them. We volunteer, donate blood and light candles in remembrance. At the same time, American Muslims are reminded that there is still much work to do.
A report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Islamic civil rights advocacy group, indicates that anti-Muslim incidents in the United States increased by 15 percent after September 11. The CAIR report, the only annual study of its kind, details incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment during the past year.
In addition to the direct acts of discrimination and violence, the report looks at the impact of post-9/11 government polices, often related to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, that have had a negative impact on American Muslim civil liberties. Those government actions featured in the report include the March 2002 raids on Muslim families and businesses in Virginia and Georgia, the Special Registration program for Muslim visa-holders, and the “voluntary” interviews conducted with thousands of Iraqi-Americans. The report also outlined the increase in Islamophobic rhetoric by evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
Florida was reported to be amongst the states to have the largest number of religious and ethnic profiling and workplace discrimination.
Even here in Miami, American Muslims have continued to experience the backlash. A former UM student was followed three times on US-1 and I-95, once directly to the UM Coral Gables campus. Campus security had to get involved and ask the gentleman to leave.
Students have also been specifically targeted at airports, with relatives being asked humiliating questions and to remove certain articles of clothing, such as shirts and headscarves, in public. Even simple things, such as checking on financial aid, turns into an ordeal, with some Muslim students being tagged as “international” students.
Students on campus were the targets of crticism, racism and discrimination in the weeks and months following September 11th. One student was kicked out of the UC for harassing Muslim students.
Islam has the second largest following and is the fastest growing religion in North America. As a country, we are becoming more aware, if not of Islam’s basic teachings, then the importance of learning more about those Americans around us. It must also be remembered that for many Muslims, when told to “go back home,” this IS home.
As we remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001, on this anniversary, let us honor those who are no longer with us by making the world better for those that are still with us.