Task for Muslim Americans Ten Years after 9/11
An MPAC statement states: Ten years ago, America and the global community were witness to one of the most horrific acts of mass murder perpetrated at the start of the new millennium – 9/11. Not only was our nation under attack, but one of the world’s great religions, Islam, was hijacked in the process. For Muslim Americans, a community up to this point which had gone largely unnoticed in the public square, was suddenly thrown into the spotlight and tasked to reclaim its moral narrative from both Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists.
In the 10 years since then, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Working backwards, the ugly has been the emergence of the network of “snake-oil sellers” attempting to divide the country using hateful rhetoric based on distortions and outright lies. This agenda of hate has recently been exposed by the Center of American Progress in a report, “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” which highlights the leading anti-Muslim extremists in the United States and their sources of funding. One of these leading purveyors of hate and bigotry is Steven Emerson, and his disreputable The Investigative Project on Terrorism, which was highlighted in the report as one of the top spewers of hate and irrationality based on his claims that 80 to 85 percent of mosques in the United States are controlled by extremists.
Since 9/11, the bad has been the increase of anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia. According to the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies report, “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future; Examining US Muslims’ Political, Social, and Spiritual Engagement 10 Years After September 11," that “43 percent of Americans admit to feeling some prejudice toward followers of Islam,” and that Islam is the most negatively viewed religion in the country. Although these reports are unfortunate and may seem to pose a challenge to the Muslim American community, the Muslim Public Affairs Council views this moment as an opportunity to bring Muslim Americans to the forefront and continue the trends and positive trajectory of the community within the larger American fabric of society.
This is where the good comes in to play. For too long, the narrative on Muslim Americans was about the community rather than from the community itself. Sept. 11, 2001, changed the actors, topics and very nature of conversations. Ten years after the horrific attacks against our nation, Muslim Americans are sitting at the proverbial table and engaging in important discussions on the issues important to their communities.
Now, more than ever, Muslim Americans are becoming more civically and politically engaged with their local communities and government, whether it is local, state or federal. According to two major reports that came out this summer by Pew Research Center and Gallup Poll on the current state of Muslim Americans, the community is mainstream and exhibit moderate attitudes. In fact, Pew’s report, “Muslim Americans: No Sign of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism,” states that it found no “indication of alienation or anger … in response to concerns about homegrown Islamic terrorists, controversies about the building of mosques and other pressures,” among Muslim Americans. Essentially, rather than continuing a victim narrative, the Muslim American community is taking initiative and engaging with sectors of society. For example, MPAC released a 9/11 Community Action Kit, which encourages Muslim Americans to engage with their local communities and neighborhoods on service projects, interfaith dialogue and 9/11 commemoration events.
The Muslim American community has come a long way in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Although we must deal with the realities of Islamophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes, there are many positive aspects to being in the spotlight. Muslim Americans should utilize the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as a catalyst to continue the momentum for positive change; the larger American society has always been a diverse one, and the Muslim American community should persist in doing good work to remain a vibrant sector of that fabric.