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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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Mertze Dahlin   

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September 11, 2013

American Muslims 12 years after 9/11

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

* The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist enterprises, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

* A covert national security programme gives the FBI and US immigration authorities power to indefinitely delay immigration benefits to Muslims and those from Muslim countries, according to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

* North Carolina became the seventh state to adopt the so-called anti-Sharia legislation.

These three episodes of last month epitomize the dilemma faced by the seven-million strong Muslim American community which remains under seige 12 years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As the Muslim American community joined the nation on August 28 in celebrating the 50th annniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's historic speech "I have a dream," it was shocked to know that the New York Police Department (NYPD) had declared all mosques as 'terrorist enterprises." This alarming disclosure by the Associated Press belied the MLK's dream " that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Twelve years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, American Muslims remained besieged through reconfiguration of US laws, policies and priorities. Profiled, harassed, reviled, attacked, peeped at by the CIA and the FBI, interrogated and permanently controlled at airports, the whole community felt excluded of American society. It will not be too much to say that the post-911 America has become less friendly to Muslims to the extent that they have probably replaced other minorities - Hispanics, Native Americans and Afro-Americans - as targets of discrimination, hate and prejudice.

Twelve years after the terrorist attacks, there’s no sign that the pressure on the Muslim community is lifting. It remains victim of guilt by association.

On August 28, the Muslim American community was surprised to know that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has secretly designated mosques as “terrorist organizations.” The Associated Press reported that the designation allowed the police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, even without any evidence of criminal activity. According to the AP report, "designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance."

Two weeks earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a shocking report that a covert national security programme allows the FBI and US immigration authorities the power to indefinitely delay immigration benefits to Muslims and those from Muslim countries. The report, titled "Muslims Need Not Apply," revealed that the previously unknown programme, which began in 2008 under George W Bush to identify those with links to terrorism, has continued under President Obama to blacklist law-abiding applicants and profile Muslims as "national security concerns."

In another anti-Muslim move, North Carolina last month became the seventh state to approve the anti-Sharia legislation. North Carolina  joins Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee in approving the anti-Sharia legislation apparently aimed at alienating the Muslim community.

Anti-Sharia bills

Twelve years after 9/11, the backlash against American Muslims shows no signs of improvement and recent years witnessed a wave of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hatred campaign sweeping the country in the shape of the so-called anti-Sharia bills introduced in about 20 states. The bills were patterned on a template produced by a leading Islamophobe David Yerushalmi who founded an organization in 2006 with the acronym SANE (the Society of Americans for National Existence) with the aim of banishing Islam from the US. He proposed a law that would make adherence to Islam a felony punishable by 20 years in prison.

There is fallout on Muslims of these anti-Sharia campaigns which began in November 2010 in Oklahoma when the voters by a 70-30 percent margin passed a ballot question that barred “state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.” The new law — which was widely considered as unfairly targeting the Muslim community and blaming it for the non-existent threat of Sharia law in the United states — was blocked by an injunction issued just a few weeks later by federal judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange. The judge argued that the Sharia ban was unconstitutional because it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and unfairly singled out Muslims. Last month, the same Judge made the temporary injunction permanent by prohibiting Oklahoma officials from certifying the results of a 2010 statewide election that approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.

However, on April 19, 2013,  Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed new legislation to stop the use foreign laws when they violate the Oklahoma Constitution. The House Bill 1060  would also ban foreign laws if they violate the United States Constitution.

Interestingly, on May 3 the Florida Senate dropped  the controversial anti-Islam bill that Muslim, Jewish and civil rights leaders criticized as "unconstitutional and unnecessary."

A month later, on June 3, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the anti-Islam bill passed by the state's legislature. In a statement announcing the veto, Governor Nixon said: ““Senate Substitute for Senate Bill No. 267 seeks to introduce a solution to a problem that does not exist and, in so doing, puts in jeopardy some of the very liberties that the bill purports to protect…."

What is the fall out of the anti-Sharia campaigns. Such campaigns increase bias among the public by endorsing the idea that Muslims are second-class citizens. They encourage and accelerate both the acceptability of negative views of Muslims and the expression of those negative views by the public and government agencies like the police.

Exponential rise of Islamophobia

Recent years have witnesses an exponential rise in Islamophobia which should be understood as a potent political tool that is used to exploit fear to gain political mileage.  The anti-Muslim sentiment in America is being generated by a cottage industry of Muslim bashers and Islamophobic groups. Some individuals, institutions and groups are at the center of pushing Islamophobia in America.

The quarter-million Muslims live in the San Francisco Bay Area face ongoing, entrenched Islamophobia more than a decade after 9/11, according to a new study released in May last. “The Bay Area Muslim Study: Establishing Community and Identity”  found 40 percent of Muslims in the region have experienced personal discrimination and 23 percent have been victims of a hate crime. The discrimination against Muslims was particularly pronounced in school-aged children, the study found. 

Islamophobia through anti-Islam bus ads: In March, muni buses were once again riding the streets of San Francisco with advertisements critical of Islam.  The ads were purchased by Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who also put ads critical of Islam on Muni buses in 2012. San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the content of Islamophobic advertisements. The resolution is the first of its kind in the nation, sending a clear message that San Francisco's elected leaders stand against hate and Islamophobia.

Islamophobia through children toys: In another sign of rising Islamophobia in the country, the American Muslim community was surprised at the fabrication of a birthday card that depicts a veiled girl doll as a suicide bomber who’ll “Blow Your Brains Out.” Featuring a photo of a Muslim doll with a Hijab, the talking bubbles placed on top of the doll’s photo read, “The Talking Doll, Pull string for message, if you dare,” and “She’ll Love You To Death! She’ll Blow Your Brains Out !" 

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