OPINION: Islamophobia runs rampant in a post 9/11 America

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Nadine Jallal, Associate Opinion Editor

The terrorist attacks that took place Sept. 11, 2001 rocked the nation and implemented an ongoing fear of terrorism in Americans still going strong today. The nation developed a  newfound passion to fight against terrorism. The War on Terror became synonymous with fighting not only Islamic countries, but also anyone who looked to be of Arab or South Asian descent, whether they were overseas or living in America. 

The association between terrorism and Islam created a movement of hate and violence toward Muslims that has yet to slow down. The movement was started and propelled by the U.S. government through several policies. In 2002, former Attorney General John Ashcroft required male visitors from a certain list of countries, almost all predominantly Arab and Muslim nations, to be registered and fingerprinted into a government database. Approximately 60,822 foreign male visitors were registered under this special registration program within the first year alone. The Department of Homeland Security announced the termination of the program in 2011 due to its controversy and inefficiency in stopping terrorism. 

Once the government of a nation normalizes the ostracization of a group of people, citizens will follow suit. Reported hate crimes against Muslims increased by over 500% between 2000-09, according to a study by Brown University. The Southern Poverty Law Center compiled an extensive list of reported hate crimes against Muslims, or those believed to be Muslim by perpetrators, starting from Sept. 11, 2001 to early 2011. The hate crimes on this list range from instances of Muslim store owners dealing with vandalism to physical and verbal assault, setting fire to mosques, posession of explosives with intent to target mosques and more.

Though 9/11 was over two decades ago, anti-Muslim hate has continued to persist in both the political and social atmosphere. Former President Donald Trump fueled the fire of anti-Muslim hate throughout his 2016 presidential campaign and his following term. 

Trump said on March 9, 2016, during a CNN interview: “I think Islam hates us. There’s something there that — there’s a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.” Trump spewed anti-Islam rhetoric during his campaign and presidency that several comprehensive lists of anti-Islam quotes became readily available with a quick Google search. 

Trump turned his Islamophobia from words to actions with his 2017 Muslim travel ban which banned travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. The executive order sparked controversy and protests across the nation. While some were angry, others felt empowered by the policy to be bolder with their Islamophobia. Hate crimes and bias against Muslims/Middle Easterners steadily increased throughout Trump’s presidency. Levels of anti-Muslim hate crimes and bias became comparable to levels from 2001. Even if percentages of anti-Muslim hate crimes didn’t increase, the nature of the incidents became more violent. Again, Americans feel empowered to showcase their Islamophobia because of a current administration seeming to condone it, just as the administration after 9/11 did.

Following Trump’s inauguration in 2017, 68% of Muslim Americans expressed feeling worried about living under Trump’s administration. Muslims, and those often mistaken as Muslim, have taken to the media to express how it feels to live in a post 9/11 America. Visibly Muslim people including women who practice wearing the hijab and men who grow long beards, are often on high alert in their daily lives. Women who wear hijabs have been targeted by Islamophobes and are even subject to violent hate crimes. 

Multiple incidents of hijabis having their hijabs ripped off their heads have been reported since 9/11. Not only are hijabis subject to violent incidents of Islamophobia, they also experience microaggressions throughout their daily lives. Comments filled with pity such as “you must get hot in there!” are a regular occurrence for hijabis. They are treated as victims of their religion rather than participants, which is offensive and perpetuates the stereotype of Islam being an oppressive religion. Sikh men are often mistaken for Muslims and subject to misguided hate crimes. The general lack of knowledge about Islam in this country causes Sikh people to be mistaken for Muslim because of the misguided stereotype that all Muslims wear turbans and have long beards. 

Most Americans report not knowing much about Islam, which contributes to the steady amount of hate crimes, bias and microaggressions Muslims face in the U.S. If Americans don’t know anything about Islam except the religion is wrongfully tied to a devastating act of terrorism, it is no surprise Islamophobia continues to run rampant in this nation. The attitude toward Islam in the U.S. has been and is still heavily influenced by the events of 9/11 and Muslim people are paying the price. Muslim people deserve to exist without being associated with terrorism, and the U.S. has to do its part to reverse that association.