9/11 has changed the life of Muslims substantially. Almost overnight, they became the target of media-hype, various "anti-terror" efforts, religious intolerance and hate crimes.
Increase In Hate Crimes Against Muslims In The USA
Anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. increased fivefold, reaching an average of 100-150 recorded cases per year. Muslims make-up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, however, represent 13.7 percent of the victims of hate crimes based on religious biases in 2013; noteworthy is the increase of approximately two percent from 11.6 the previous year, even though an overall decrease in religiously motivated hate crimes was recorded.
It is important to note that recorded hate crime numbers are subject to under-reporting since the participation in tracking programs is voluntary in the U.S. Additionally, applicable cases may not always be accurately identified as hate crimes, and therefore add to an increase in under-representation. In spite of the potential for under-representation, hate crime data is a useful method to track development patterns over time.
How Does The U.S. Measure Up Against Western European Countries In Context Of Biases And Crimes Against Muslims?
The backlash against Muslims in major Western European countries after 9/11 was more severe than in the U.S., particularly considering that 9/11 happened on U.S. soil. According to The Guardian, "hundreds of anti-Muslim offences were carried out [in the U.K.], in 2013, with Britain's biggest force, the Metropolitan police, recording 500 Islamophobic crimes." In the U.S., in 2001, shortly after 9/11, a spike in hate crimes against Muslims -- over 400 cases -- were recorded, followed by a drop, and remained constant below 200 since 2002. Adjusted to the difference in population, there is a substantial gap in the number of hate crimes committed in the U.K. versus the U.S.
France does not track hate crimes. However, strong anti-Muslim sentiments became evident, among others, in various legislations that went as far as aiming to limit freedom of expression of Muslims; the ban on burqas and the law against denial of Armenian genocide are some of such examples. The latter legislation was overturned as the country's highest judicial body deemed it unconstitutional. Similarly, Switzerland passed a legislation banning the construction of minarets from Mosques, while claiming that the ban was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture." Severity of the anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany was demonstrated, among others, in the outcome of the European Parliamentary election in May 2014, during which right-wing parties recorded substantial gains. Furthermore, recently formed right-wing radical groups such as Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) emerged and enjoys major support among the general population in Germany.
9/11 Repercussions -- Anti-Muslim Policies In The U.S.
CNN correspondent Peter Bergen reported last April that "since 9/11, extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists, and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology." The $1.6 trillion that was spent in the U.S. since 9/11 on the "War on Terror," however, does not target all terrorists equally, but clearly singles out the ones associated with the "Middle East," "Islam," and other similar stereotypical categories; therefore, most people do not associate the "War on Terror" with angry white males who go on a shooting rampage the way Stephen Hick did when he shot and killed three young people of Muslim faith in Chapel Hill earlier last month.
This "War on Terror" changed the lives of average Muslims in the U.S. substantially, as they became suspects and potential terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. The FBI and NYPD started mapping Muslim communities, USCIS denied many Muslims their citizenship and U.S. veterans ended up on a No Fly list without due process. The New York Times reports that the FBI even scrutinizes its own employees with "ties" to the Middle East without a probable cause.
In some states, like Alabama and Oklahoma, Americans apparently have become so paranoid about Islam that they have proactively banned Sharia Law, defying basic human reason since there is no evidence that Sharia is in any way a threat to the U.S. judicial system. This was made possible, in spite of the fact that a ban which singles out one religion violates not only basic American values, but also the First Amendment.
War Against Islamic Extremists, Not Against Muslims?
U.S. authorities repeatedly claim that the U.S. is not at war with Muslims, but with Islamic or, as President Obama recently put it, violent extremists. The repercussions of anti-terror efforts that single out Muslims, even though more and more extremist recruits have diverse backgrounds and many of them have little to do with Islam, unfortunately paint a different picture. Negative images under which Muslims have to suffer are not only a result of the messages conveyed through the steps taken against them by the authorities, but also a result of the sensationalism and the dissemination of repeat stereotypes and biases by the mainstream media. No wonder so many Americans are becoming suspicious of their fellow citizens.
"War On Terror" Mismanaged? -- Increase In Terror Plots
As another recent threat of terrorist attacks on American malls has demonstrated -- contrary to claims by experts such as Thomas Kean, former New Jersey governor and chair of the 9/11 commission -- in spite of the excessive spending and erosion of civil liberties, the "War on Terror" did not result in more safety for Americans, at least not according to average Americans. As a recent poll conducted by NBC News/Wall Street Journal demonstrates: 47 percent of Americans report feeling less safe after 9/11, whereas only 26 percent feel safer and another 26 percent report no change -- notion that is supported by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C., which confirmed that terror plots have increased since 9/11. Of the 60 terror plots, 49 were reportedly "homegrown," indicating that the source of the threat is complex and diverse.
Threat Of Military Industrial Complex Identified By President Eisenhower 50 Years Ago
Without a doubt, terrorism is a real threat that the U.S. and its allies have to combat. However, there must be a better way than the excessive waste and abuse of tax payer money and fear-mongering to fight this war. If we were to remain consistent in our "War on Terror" strategy, American tax payers would have to spend more money, give up more freedoms, and become less safe in the future.
The current "War on Terror" is the Military Industrial Complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans against more than 50 years ago. Many beneficiaries of the "War on Terror" understandably don't want this war to end, no matter how much animosity it has created and how unsuccessful it has been. However, as American tax payers pick up the tab, we should consider questioning what the rest of us have exactly gained from spending the money, a good portion of which we could have spent on improving our schools, investing in research and development, creating sustainable jobs, and establishing preventive programs for many ailments in our society.