WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)-Unrelenting antagonism following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks resulted in an increase in anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in this country in 2002, according to an annual report released July 15 by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Despite a “backlash” against Muslims immediately after the September 2001 attacks, anti-Muslim incidents increased by 15 percent in 2002, from 525 the previous year, to 602 the study revealed.
“Residual anger, fear and discrimination was still lingering after 9/11,” Dr. Mohamed Nimer, CAIR Research Director and author of the study, entitled “The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States,” told reporters. Since the initial 9/11 shock has dissipated some, he said, “the mood is a bit calmer, but discrimination continues.”
The largest number of incidents were reported by Muslims in California, Florida, Virginia, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and Maryland, according to the study. In addition to profiling people because of their ethnic appearance, their names, or because they wore religious garb, Muslims also suffered from a high incidence of workplace discrimination.
“More than any other year, the daily experiences of Muslims in schools, the workplace, airports, and in encounters with the courts, police and other government agencies included incidents in which they were singled out because of actual or perceived religious and ethnic identity,” said Dr. Nimer.
Just as in 1995, following the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City when Muslims were erroneously accused of that crime in the initial media reports, anti-Muslim sentiment related to the 9/11 terror attacks was also cited in a number of cases in 2002.
The report also examined the impact of post 9/11 government policies, such as the USA Patriot Act, which have had a negative impact on Muslim civil liberties in this country. Government actions mentioned in the report include raids on Muslim families and businesses in Virginia and Georgia in March 2002, the Special Registration program for Muslim visa-holders, and the “voluntary” interviews conducted with thousands of Iraqi-Americans.
“While this report indicates that government policies are part of the problem, the government can also be part of the solution by refusing succumb to the siren song of religious and ethnic profiling,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Ironically, CAIR offices around the country worked in close cooperation with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, hosting town hall meetings, sensitivity training sessions and even joint news conferences on security related issues.
CAIR officials defended their cooperation with law enforcement authorities as activities which were beneficial to Muslims, not as a voluntary round-up which helped the FBI and other agencies identify potential Muslim “suspects.”
“We’ve always said that we prefer that law enforcement authorities come in the front door of the mosque, not the back door,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR Communications Director told reporters in response to a question from The Final Call. “That’s why we’ve always encouraged meetings with community leadership, with ordinary Muslims in the communities.
“We think that both parties benefit. The Muslims benefit. Often in these meetings they learn what their rights are, and what they don’t have to do and what they do have to do. The FBI and all these other officials get to see actual Muslim,s not through the prism of terrorism, but just as ordinary fellow citizens.
“It just creates great understanding, builds bridges, increases cooperation, decreases fear, so I think it’s tremendously beneficial for all parties involved,” Mr. Hooper said.
The report also outlined an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric by well known public figures, including evangelists Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson.
In an un-related, but suspicious incident earlier the same day the report was released, two Pakistani students were shot dead in nearby Prince Georges County, Maryland by unidentified gunmen. Local police are treating the shooting as a robbery, but friends say the two men could have been targeted because of their race.
Sair Saeed Butt, and Hammad Chaudhry, both from Lahore, were shot outside Mr. Butt’s home at around 3 a.m. when Mr. Chaudhry could not wait until the next day to show his friend his new car, according to Dawn.com.
After the shooting, several teenagers involved “simply drove away,” an eyewitness told Dawn. The assailants did not even bother to search the victim’s brand new car. “If robbery was the motive, they could have stolen the car, looked for money. They simply drove away after killing the two Pakistanis.”
“It seems as if they were killed because the killers did not like their looks or the color of their skin,” a friend of the two men told Dawn. “This is a hate crime.”
Police disagree. “Apparently some local, young Black males seized an opportunity to rob somebody, and the worst happened,” P.G. County homicide detective Kerry Jernigan told Dawn.