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Table of contents
A) Definition of topic and its relevance….
B) “Muslim Life in the United States – Post September 11 Changes ”
1. Understanding Islam
1.1 Islam basics.
1.2 Islam everyday…
1.3 Islam everyday within the community
2. The Muslim minority in the United States
2.1 Statistics …
2.2 Social status…...
2.3 ”How do Muslims feel about living in the USA”...…
2.4 Important organisations …...…
3. September 11th 2001
3.1 Opinions, personal comments…
3.2 Legal changes after September 11..
3.2 Impact on the lives of Muslims in the USA
4. Muslim Community “What is the role of our community & How can we improve our situation ?“
First of all I would like to thanks everyone who supported me when writing this essay; the professors at a New York college that gave me their time and support, all of my interview partners and many others.
What was this about ?
I am a German student currently in 13th grade. In the German educational system you do the A-Levels exam at the end of 13th grade. With A-Levels you are permitted to go to University and study any subject of your choice.
A-Levels is a combination of 12/13th grade and its final exam. During the last two years of your studies you chose to majors. Mine are English (as a foreign language) and Biology. In one of your majors you have to write a final thesis or essay with a length of 10-20 pages (average 15 pages, text only). I chose to write my essay in English. Topics in this subject normally address issues of the English speaking world, cover literature or art. Over the period of one year, the end of the 1st semester in year 12 until the end of the 1st semester in 13th grade you do your research, write etc. This period might seem long for such a short essay, however it has to be considered that you are having normal classes and regular exams at the same time, meaning that you will not work on this essay throughout the year but only when school is less busy.
I also want to say that I would have liked to go more into detail when writing about certain aspects of my topic but the essay’s length is limited to 10-20 pages of text, meaning that I could not write as much at I had liked to do. I also decided to focus on showing how Muslims live, what they believe in and on illustrating their viewpoints, giving the reader an introduction to a minority that has been in the spotlight after 9-11. Especially the legal changes that have been made after 9/11 were covered more briefly than I had wished.
Anyway, I hope that reading this essay will not give you the impression that you wasted your time when helping me. I would be looking forward to hearing from you with criticism, opinions or questions that you might have. Once again thank you so much for your help, I really appreciated it. contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
(These pages 1,2 were not included in the version that I submitted to my school)
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Muslim life in the United States - Post 9-11 Changes
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“I am one of you. But I am also one of “ them”. What do I mean ?” This is how Zayed M. Yasin’s speech at Harvard’s commencement ceremony held on June 6th,2002 starts. He asks whether he “as a practising Muslim […], through the combination of [his] faith and [his] citizenship, [is] an inherent contradiction“ . According to S. Huntington’s 1993 published theory “The clash of civilisations”, the third millennium will be dominated by a conflict that is no longer between states or ideologies but between cultures, most notably Islam and the West (M. Shahid Alam, Independent,12/20/2001; Huntinton, 1993). If that was the case and the world was in fact to be dominated by a clash between those two cultures one has to ask: What about Muslims living in the West ? Islam is the fastest growing religion in the USA (CQ Researcher, Issue 16,1993). For people like Z. Yasin the clash of civilisations predicted by Huntington means a conflict between country of residence and faith. Consequently the answer of Yasin’s question is highly relevant, especially in light of 9-11.
This essay will try to briefly examine who the Muslims in the United States are, what they believe in, how they view their lives as well as how these are influenced by September 11th.
1 . Understanding Islam
1.1 Islam basics
When speaking of God Muslims say Allah. This is the Arabic word for The One God. Consequently even Arabic Christians are using this phrase. However, herein “God” is used instead of Allah to avoid misunderstanding.
The basis for Muslim life are the five pillars of Islam:
Muslims believe that there is no god but God and that Muhammad (pbuh* ) is His messenger. Five times a day Muslims pray to God. This ritual prayer is seen as a way to wash a away one’s sins as well an opportunity to become close to God.
Almsgiving is the third pillar of Islam. Muslims who own more than a certain amount are supposed to donate about 2.5% of their property to those who are in need. During the month of Ramadan Muslims all over the world, fast from before dawn to sunset. During this time Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse. The purpose of fasting is to restrain oneself as a way of submission to God. The pilgrimage is the fifth pillar of Islam. If physically and financially able to do so Muslims perform the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Islam means peace. Belief in God and living according to what He says means to live in harmony with God. In doing so mankind can find peace within himself and with his environment. A Muslim tries to please God with all his doings.
Islam in this general context of submission to God and believing in His existence is seen as natural to all beings, meaning that everyone by nature is Muslim and only the chosen course of life decides whether one stays on or leaves this path. Muslims do believe that God has sent messengers to all peoples such as Moses and Jesus (pbut*). Judaism and Christianity are regarded as religions of scriptures as their holy books are based on divine revelations. Since these scriptures have not been preserved or have been changed, Muslims believe that they no longer include the complete and true faith.
The Koran is the ultimate source of Islamic teachings. It is believed to be the very word of God, Almighty. It is a complete record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad.. The prophet Muhammad is seen as the last messenger of God. His life and behaviour (Sunna*) illustrate the teachings of the Koran.
Muslims believe in a live after death. As they believe in individual accountability, a person’s deeds and more important his/her intentions will determine the course of Judgement Day and of the hereafter.
The concept of Jihad is often misunderstood. The phrase holy war does not at all apply to the Islamic definition of the term. Jihad means struggle and effort.
“ It is a word that has been corrupted and misinterpreted, both by those who do and do not claim to be Muslims, and we saw last fall, to our great national and personal loss, the results of this corruption. Jihad, in its truest and purest form, the form to which all Muslims aspire, is the determination to do right, to do justice even against your own interests. It is an individual struggle for personal moral behaviour. Especially today, it is a struggle that exists on many levels: self-purification and awareness, public service and social justice.”
(Zayed M. Yasin, June 6th ,2002)
1.2 Islam everyday (see 1.1 and 1.3)
Islam affects the life of those who follow its guidelines. Some of Islam’s aspects concerning everyday life are to be described in the following:
- Daily prayer
Muslims pray five times a day : before sunrise, midday, in the afternoon, after sunset, at night. The establishment of the daily prayers gives a Muslim’s everyday life a certain structure. In a non-Muslim country where public life is not organised accordingly, Muslims can experience very different types of reactions: curiosity, tolerance or on the other hand ignorance or aggression. When I asked the headmaster of my school if I could get a room to say my prayers he reacted with amazing understanding, I even received my own key. A non-Muslim environment is confronted with a new “way of life ” ,consequently Muslims often have to explain their belief . “ […] many people are open to learning about my faith and so that helps to break down the false images and stereotypes people have of Islam.” (interview Nr.11)
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Islam does not allow Muslims to consume pork or any kind of alcoholic drinks.
Muslims are also supposed to slaughter animals in a certain way, meat that meets this standard is called “halal”(Yusuf Al-Qaradawi,1989). In areas with a high Muslim population such as Queens in New York one can find numerous supermarkets and restaurants that offer halal food.
- Muslim Youth
Teenagers normally go out to clubs, have parties and girl-/boyfriends. A Muslim does not only not drink but he or she is also not supposed to have any premarital sexual relationships. (Yusuf Al-Qaradawi,1989) As young Muslims do not share such an important part of mainstream youth culture they tend to spent their free-time with friends who share their belief. This of course, does not deny the possibility of inter-religious friendships but states an existing tendency (see 1.3) .
There are certain guidelines concerning this issue in the Koran. Further explanations can be found in the Sunna* of the prophet (pbuh*). Nevertheless one can find very different styles and customs throughout the Muslim world as well as among Muslims living in western societies. Islam orders Muslims to cover certain parts of the body which are called “aura“. Men are supposed to be covered no less than from knees to abdomen. Women are to cover themselves from ankles to neck, additionally they cover their hair with a scarf. (Yusuf Al-Qaradawi,1989)
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One can certainly find rather lenient or more extreme understandings of any religious matter, yet it is not the purpose of this essay to cover those grounds in detail. Each Muslim might have a different attitude concerning the aspects described above. In 1.3 I posted excerpts from interviews I conducted for my essay. They illustrate that despite religious guidelines, various viewpoints can be found when interviewing Muslims about their faith and lifestyle.
1.3 Islam everyday within the Community:
Do you think you being a Muslim is an important part of your identity ?
Are you in a way defined by your religion ?
“Most definitely it is an important part of my identity. It is who I am and that is one part I can’t hide from others.” (interview Nr.1+2)
“Being a Muslim takes up a very significant portion of my identity and yes I'm definitely defined by my religion, the teachings of my religion are what made me the person I am today .” (Nr. 3)
“When I think [about] who I am in terms of nationality, I say American Muslim. I think Muslim American sounds a lot nicer to say, but I am an American Muslim, Muslim being the key, center part of my identity, and the American part as just a prefix to it, but not actually who I am.
People chose to define me by my religion and I embrace that, because it helps me become closer to God” (Nr.7)
Can you describe how Islam affects your daily life (in case it does) ?
What about prayers, halal food , clothing ?
“My life tends revolve around it, I cover when I go out. So basically I make sure I am noticed as a Muslim in both actions and words.” (interview Nr.1+2)
“Islam has a big affect on my life, since Islam is a religion which you can't just mind for a particular day or time period, Islam is a religion that you have to actually live. I pray and do all the other things that I'm supposed to. I've always eaten halal food and I've never worn any sort of clothing that shows off any part of my body. I only wear Pakistani clothes.” (Nr. 3)
“When they say Islam is a complete way of life, they mean it. Americans tend to separate their religion to one day a week, Sabbath, sabot, or Sunday, depending on who they are. But as a Muslim, I find that I have Islam in my every day life, no matter what. Everything stops when it’s prayer time. Waiters look at me strangely when I ask that my food be cooked on a grill where NO PORK was cooked without cleaning first. I get the look for my clothing (ie a scarf and baggy pants, long sleeve shirt, etc).” (Nr.7)
“About dating and going out with girls, I have several friends including girls and have very clean relationship with them. I explained to them that sex is not allowed without marriage[…] .When you present yourselves a moral Muslim, rather than trying to FIT-IN, people respect you more. When we try to "fit-in," they do not say anything in front of but do you think we really become European? I know several Muslim[s] who become Martin from Mateen, Ray from Raza etc. In fact the[y] lost their identity and gain[ed] nothing.”(Nr.10)
“Islam is the prism through which I look at my life and the world. I try to make all my actions in accordance with Islam.”
“I pray 5 times a day. I avoid pork and alcohol. I wear hijab and dress conservatively.” (Nr.11)
“I pray, I don’t think me eating halal is a big issue. As long as the animal is not haram*, the way it’s killed shouldn’t be a problem. […]and clothing, as long as you are dressed appropriately it’s ok. I think what a women wears is her choice. Clothing is mostly based on family and culture than it is religion.” (Nr.12)
Do you face problems because of your belief ?
“On several occasions yes. This last summer I worked in a fast food place, and they wouldn’t let me break for my prayers, even if I took a shorter lunch break. At my job at school, in a cafeteria, I was told I couldn’t wear hijab when I started covering this last October. I had to go all the way to one of the people in charge of housing on campus to be allowed to cover. “ (Nr.7)
“I face countless problems just because of what I believe. I don't talk about my religion to anyone unless someone specifically asks me to, because I'm afraid they might think I'm trying to convert them to Islam or something and get offended (believe me, that happens more often than you would think.)” (Nr.3)
There are some tensions in my family because I am the only Muslim but I don’t really face many obstacles in practicing Islam.(Nr.11)
Would you say that most of your friends are Muslim or are your friends of rather mixed backgrounds?
“Most of my friends are Muslims [,] however I am open to conversations with anyone. (Nr.1+2)
“Most of my friends are Muslims” (Nr.5)
“I think I have about as many non-Muslim friends as Muslim friends. Reason for that is most likely that I live in kind of a small city.”(Nr.3)
“[M]ixed backgrounds” (Nr.6,9,11 )
How would you say are Muslims and non-Muslims getting along?
“There have been cases where both get along, at work, in school or other places. Muslims have been reached out to by some concerned Americans in many ways. So one can say that there is good out there.” (Nr.1+ 2)
“How Muslims and non-Muslims get along depends on where they're living. In big cities like Chicago, New York City etc. Muslims are being treated very badly and have a worse relationship with non-Muslim because of unfair treatment. Muslims in small cities get treated badly too, but not just as bad, and their relationships with non-Muslims are much better. But I'm speaking from my personal experience, so my answer could be different from others.”(Nr.3)
“ [J]ust fine …for those who actually spend time with each other.. The real problem is ignorance… and segregation by choice- by misconceptions and fear” (Nr.6)
“On campus, we get along great. Our MSA was involved in VOTE 2002 coal[i]tion and contributed many man hours to the project of getting students out to vote. We part[i]cipate in the larger community and university life, and people see us as a positive group on campus.” (Nr.7)
“I believe its people that get along with each other and not religions. Our religion or lack [thereof] is a choice of lifestyle that we make [,] which defines who we are as a person , when people are open enough not to allow preconceived stereotypes to influence their opinion about someone they usually get along.” (Nr.9)
Do you think they do not spent much time with each other; do Muslims live in a sub-culture?
“This is something that I’ve been speaking up about for the longest time. Muslims are separated from themselves and non-Muslims based on the mere fact that they speak different languages. This is totally against Islamic teachings and I do believe that it was one of the reasons that there was such dangerous backlash post 9/11. However, I’m happy to say that yes things have changed; there is communication and dialogue going on between Muslims and non-Muslims which has led to understanding and at times conversion to Islam.” ( Nr.1+2)
“I can't say anything about the two spending time with each other, again, this depends on their location. I can only answer for this little city, things have quieted down over here so I spend just as time with them as I used to, since I have to go to school with them and everything.”(Nr.3)
“Except for the African American Muslims, the rest of the Muslims are living in a sub-culture. It has been their deliberate policy to isolate itself.” (Nr.5)
“I’m not part of the Muslim subculture at my university, although I know one exists. It’s a tight group.” (Nr.7)
“ Yes, they do live in a subculture but All people live in subcultures, they are not necessarily divided in terms of religion. More in terms of preferences.” (Nr.9)
“Most Muslims cannot live […] isolated from non-Muslims simply because the majority is non-Muslim. But Muslims do have a unique position like all other minorities […]. So to some extent we do have a sub-culture but we interact with the dominant culture out of necessity and simply because it is unavoidable.” (Nr.11)
Do you feel split up between your Islamic and non-Islamic environment, school/job and free time?
“At times I do feel split yet I try to bridge the gap by solidifying my identity, things can change but identifying myself as a Muslim and acting like one will not.”
“No, I'm not split up between the two enviro[n]ments. No matter what enviro[n]ment I'm in, I'll always be a Muslim and live just as much with the Islamic laws as ever.” (Nr.3)
“No, I am perfectly fine being a [M]uslim everywhere” (Nr.7)
“No, not really. I think if I had converted while I was still in high school then I would have felt those pressures much more strongly. It is a little harder to practice Islam if you do not have any support such as in a non-Islamic environment.” (Nr. 11)
First of all, it should be pointed out that although these interviews were conducted with Muslims of different ages, gender, from different ethnicities as well as with converts and Muslims that were brought up in an Islamic environment, 12 interviews cannot claim to cover every viewpoint.
All of the respondents see their being Muslim as an important part of their identity. As they do follow religious guidelines Islam plays a significant role in their everyday life. They associate with friends who are either mainly Muslim or of rather mixed background. The non-Muslim – Muslim relationship is seen positively. Although all of them state the existence of a Muslim subculture, they do not necessarily feel a part of it. Some have faced problems because of their belief, while others have not suffered from any kind of harassment. They also differ when asked whether they feel split up between their Islamic and the mainstream environment.
The bottom line is, Muslims who are undivided about the great impact Islam has on their life, might still have opposing viewpoints on everyday life issues.
2. Muslim minority in the United States
Accurate numbers about Muslims living in the US are very difficult to obtain..
The Washington Post 2 reports “Studies include estimates of 6 to 7 million in contrast [to] more recent studies with figures of no more than 3.4 million and perhaps as few as 1.5 million. The conflicting studies are not simply a case of sponsors with different political agendas. The gap in the numbers also illustrates the problems that demographers have long faced when trying to count religious populations.” (11/24/2001)
This is partly because the U.S. Census, the most extensive survey of American society, is prohibited from asking about religious affiliation.
These are some results of major studies:
(population in million)
Mosque Study project 6-7
American Religious Identification Survey 2001 2-3
Survey by the American Jewish Committee at most 2.8
There are about 1,209 mosques in the USA, which have increased 25% in number since 1994. On an average, 1,625 Muslims are associated with each mosque. Almost all the mosques have Asian, African-American, and Arab members and all of them feel that they strictly follow the Koran and Sunnah. Around three fourth of the mosques deem the Koran should be interpreted with consideration of its purposes and modern circumstances and nearly the same number of them provide some assistance to the needy. More than 20 percent U.S. mosques have a full-time school. (3 )
American Muslim Poll
Project MAPS: Muslims in American Public Square commissioned Zogby International to conduct the Poll through phone interviews of a nationwide representative sample of the American Muslim population during the months of November and December 2001.
These are some of the surveys results :
Ethnicities of Muslims
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graphics 1 and 2 www.cair-net.org
The American Muslims surveyed were born in 80 countries including the U.S. 36% were born in the United States. About one third each are African-American or South-Central Asian. One fourth are Arab. European and others make up only 7% of the Muslim Population. However about two third of converts are African- American, more than a fourth are White. One reason for the different percentage for converts might be that the majority of Arabs and South-Central-Asians are Muslims and can therefore not play an important role among the number of converts.
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Three quarters of surveyed American Muslims (74%) are under 50. About a fifth of them is between 18 and 29. One can therefore say that Muslims in the U.S. are rather young. Greater populations of Muslims can be found in urban areas, meaning large cities like New York, Detroit, Los Angeles etc. Two fifths live in the east. Seven in ten (69%) are married.
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American Muslims are split up about their voting habits. While two fifths are Democrats, less than a fourth are Republican and less than a third vote for independent candidates or minor parties. The numbers also show that U.S. Muslims are very eager to participate in the political process, eight in ten (79%) are registered to vote. Furthermore, half of those (53%) that are not registered to vote say this is because they are not U.S. citizens.
American Muslims take active part on various issues, 45% have changed their lifestyle in support of a cause, like the environment. On the issues of Health care and poverty elevation almost all American Muslims favour big government solutions and support universal health care as well as more generous government assistance to the poor. However, American Muslims are conservative on many social issues. More then two thirds support the death penalty and the same number opposes gay marriages. More then half of them support making abortions more difficult and 61% oppose physician-assisted suicide and support banning the sale and display of pornography.
As with many other issues American Muslim’s habits differ in religious practices. Two-thirds American Muslims offer some of the daily prayers (salah), whereas nearly half say they offer all five prayers daily . Slightly more than one-fifth say they make salah occasionally or go only for Eid (religious holiday) prayer, while 13% accept they never pray. Half of American Muslims attended their mosque for Friday or daily prayer in the preceding week. Younger American Muslims aged 18-24 (62%) and African American Muslims (69%) are more likely to be involved in activities at their Mosque than American Muslims as a whole (48%).Eight in ten say the role of Islam and the importance of spirituality in their daily lives is very important.One-fifth of American Muslims are convert to Islam. Reading about religion and influenced by a fellow Muslim are the main reasons for conversion.
2.2 Social Status
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Muslims in the U.S. are highly educated. Six in ten have graduated from college. About one fourth have been to some college. Only 6% have not finished their high school. Half (50%) earn more than $50,000 annually. Due to their high education a large group of Muslims is very well to do. However, 10% earn less then $15,000 and can thus be described as lower class. Another 10% earn $15-24,000, about as many up to $34,000, meaning they belong to lower middle and middle class. 17% have an income of up to $49,000 and are therefore part of the upper-middle class.
As addressed in 2.3 a large number of U.S. Muslims come to the USA for educational reasons. After their graduation from U.S. colleges they can work in very well paid, prestigious professions, as doctors, computer specialists etc.
The bottom line is that a large number of Muslims in the U.S. obtain an outstanding degree of education, consequently they are in a financially strong position.
2.3 How do Muslims feel about living in the United States ?
Here are some excerpts of the interviews that I conducted for my research. The answers might illustrate the feelings of the interviewed Muslims:
“I can say that being a Muslim in America is much easier than being an American in a Muslim country.” (interview Nr.9)
“When you present yourselves a moral Muslim, rather than trying to FIT-IN, people respect you more. When we try to "fit-in," they do not say anything in front of but do you think we really become European? I know several Muslim who become Martin from Mateen, Ray from Raza etc. In fact the[y] lost their identity and gain[ed] nothing. […] I think in America we are living more freely as Muslim[s] than [in] any Islamic country, […] if you compare the constitution of Muslim countries and the USA, then you will find the American constitution more closer to Islam.“ (Nr.10)
Do you plan to stay permanently in the USA?
“I'm really not sure whether I'll be living in the US permanently or not.” (Nr.3,5,9,11)
“I plan to divide my time between Egypt and the United States, depending on my job” (Nr.7)
“Yes” ( Nr. 8,10)
Why did you come to the USA ?
“My father received a job offer here”( Nr. 1)
“I came to the US for a wide variety of reasons, but mostly to get a better education and to escape the violence which often took place in Pakistan.”( Nr.3)
“Moved with parents, mainly because of education purposes and due to political conditions in Pakistan” (Nr. 8)
“[S] tudy ( Nr. 9) “To get my Ph.D.” (Nr.10) “For graduate studies” (Nr. 5)
How do you feel about being Muslim in the USA ? Did it play any role or would you say it did not influence your life at all for example how people reacted towards you?
“Ultimately it should be pointed out that America is a place where you’ll find ppl of different backgrounds and religions and I don’t believe it was ever a problem to be a pract[i]sing Muslim. Prior to 9/11 the feeling about being a Muslim was something that came easy, it was not the majority view but nevertheless it was something that wasn’t seen in a negative way. However, many Muslims were immigrants who were trying hard to fit into the rigidly defined American way. (Nr.1)
Every time someone is harsh on me because of how I look or my prayers, it makes me a stronger Muslim, alhamduillah. I wear my hijab with pride, I proudly say I am a Muslim, and I believe people respect me for that.” (Nr.7)
“Living in USA really helped me understand Islam and I was able to differentiate between religion and culture.” (Nr.8)
“I am quite happy as a Muslim in America. I feel free to practice Islam. I think since Muslims are in the minority here it can be hard if you live in a community without a lot of Muslims or Islamic resources. […] Many people are open to learning about my faith and so that helps to break down the false images and stereotypes people have of Islam. (Nr.11)
Do you think Islam can contribute to and solve the problems of the American society?
“I believe that if Muslims were act[ing] in accordance to Islamic teachings then they c[ould] bring about a much needed change within themselves and yes […]eventually Islam would positively contribute to and solve the problems of the American society but to a certain degree.”(Nr.1)
“Islam could help solve problems of the American society, though I truly believe this is far from everyone's minds. Really, Americans will overthrow their own government before they even dream of handing any part of it over to Islamic laws.” (Nr.3)
“Of course, Islam is THE solution that America is still too ignorant to appreciate. One of the reasons why America hasn't appreciated Islam is that Muslims are a very poor representation of Islam.” (Nr.5)
“It’s a tough question. They are both such different set of lifestyles that a comparison is hard to make. To say weather the problems of one can be alleviated by using solutions from the other seems very hypothetical.” (Nr.9)
“Yes, I think Islam offers a way of life which is universal and can appeal to everyone. I think Muslims can start trying to show ways Islam can be useful in America but we cannot overlook the failings in Muslim countries. Muslims in Muslim societies need to put Islam in a position where it can help improve the lives of ordinary people. And Muslims in the West also need to show how living an Islamic lifestyle is beneficial in a non-Muslim society.” (Nr.11)
Once again it has to be pointed out that the 12 interviews I conducted can obviously not cover every viewpoint. My interview partners are divided when asked whether they plan to stay permanently in the USA, about half of them are undecided, while some state they intend to stay. Most of them either came to the United States for educational reasons or because of their parents. A majority feels very positive about living in the United states as they feel free to practice Islam. However some also mention difficulties they are facing concerning their interaction with the mainstream society. They almost unanimously state that Islam can contribute to and solve social problems of the American society, yet they also say that this is somewhat unlikely to happen as Muslims are a poor representation of Islam. All in all, these excerpts do just like 1.3 show that Muslims in America are a diverse group which makes it rather difficult to sum up their points of view.
In the following there are a few more results of the American Muslim Poll and the Mosque Study Project (Cair) that speak to this subject:
54% of American Muslims do not consider the USA to be an immoral society although 83% agree that the influence of religion and spiritual values should increase. The surveys also show an eagerness of Muslims to participate in American institutions and to actively take part in the political process. (Poll p.19)
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graphic 3 www.cair-net.org
2.4 Important Islamic Organisations
The Council4 on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a non-profit, grassroots membership organisation, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., and branches all over America. CAIR was established to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America. They believe misrepresentations of Islam are most often the result of ignorance on the part of non-Muslims and reluctance on the part of Muslims to articulate their case. CAIR is dedicated to presenting an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public. Hereby they seek to empower the Muslim community through political and social activism.
ISNA5 The aim of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is to help the Muslims in North America to live an Islamic life. ISNA works to advance the cause of Islam and Muslims in North America. ISNA activities include support for better schools, stronger outreach programs, organized community centers, and other Islamic programs.
MSA 6 The Muslim Student Association (MSA National) has been one of the oldest and most influential religious organizations in North America. MSA National was the precursor of ISNA, ICNA, MAYA, IMA, AMSS, AMSE, MYNA, Islamic Book Service, and the North American Islamic Trust. MSA National will be forty years old in the year 2003. Its main goal is to educate people about Islam.
The organisations described in the above are just a few, many more can be found. That being said, it is obvious that Muslims successfully try to establish institutions that voice the viewpoints of U.S. Muslims.
3. September 11th 2001
3.1 Opinions, personal comments
Here are some more excerpts from my interviews:
Can you tell me how you feel about September 11th?
“I feel that it was bound to happen sometime or another but I was not expecting for it to happen at such an intense level. America must realize that the majority of the Muslim world is displeased and angered at the American government and not its people. 9/11 raised certain fears in me when it came to the Muslim community. We were put on the forefront and our actions where being watched and analyzed so it became a task to act in accordance to Islam. However, it helped in bringing the community together and shaking the Muslims
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into realizing their responsibility as well as, reminding one and all of God. Many innocent lives were lost on the actions of their government, it’s really sad.”(Nr.1)
“Of course, it's a terrible crime. I'm not yet convinced that Muslims are behind it. There is a lot that the American public is misinformed about. But in America, information is very controlled by the government.”(Nr.5)
“ I feel many things, mainly anger for the idiots who committed the atrocities. What good did it do them? They were pissed about American foreign policy, so what? All they did was make life harder for Muslims in the US. An interesting fact is how much Muslims abroad hate Bush, but American Muslims overwhelmingly voted for him in 2000. […] it would be wonderful if our brothers and sisters abroad let us work in America, work in the government for positive change. […]
That being said, I don’t support American foreign policy, don’t support the action in Afghanistan, don’t support the war in Iraq. But Sept 11 was not a proud day for Islam, and I hate that worse then I hate American foreign policy.”(Nr.7)
“Very sad for the great loss of life and fear it created. And for the way a religion of peace and justice was used to justify such an atrocity.” (Nr. 9,8,3,12)
“I have very mixed emotions about September 11.[…] 9/11 has brought such immense pressure and scrutiny on Muslims in a way that hasn’t been seen before. It has made the situation for many Muslims here worse, it’s harder to get visas to work or study if you are Muslim[…] I don’t entertain the conspiracy theories about 9/11 and believe Muslims my brothers in Islam were responsible. 9/11 really made me look at myself, my life, my faith in a new and better way. It has helped me to become a better Muslim and a better person. But I fear for the world environment changed by 9/11 because I don’t see things as getting better but quite possibly getting worse.”(Nr.11)
“I want to throw up over it. How dare someone kill innocent people and blame it on this beautiful religion? Not only did it end up in massive loss of life, economic troubles, and a government [who has] been given the power to do whatever they want on the premise that it’s in the interest of national security, but the worst of all…the non Muslim’s view of Islam is now one of violence, oppression and irrationality…” (Nr.6)
All of my interview partners feel that what happened on 9/11 was an atrocity. They unanimously think that criticism of U.S. Foreign policy must not result in such violent attacks and they hold the terrorists responsible for the serious backlashes from which U.S. Muslims now have to suffer.
3.2 Legal changes after September 11
In the wake of September 11 the Bush administration has taken several steps to increase domestic security. It is self-evident that the attacks underline security concerns that must be resolved. However critics claim that the government’s steps undermine civil liberties without reaching an actual increase of security. In the following, some major contents of the new legislation will be explained.
The USA Patriot Act
This act was approved by congress only six weeks after the attacks, it was signed into law on October 26, 2001 (see p.43).
“ Section 802 [of the USA Patriot Act] creates a federal crime of “domestic terrorism” that broadly extends to “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal law” if they “ appear to be intended…to influence the government by intimidation or coercion” and if they occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. ” As the term is only vaguely defined, the government is hereby granted permission to read this as “licensing the investigation and surveillance of political activists and organisations that protest government policies “(see p.44).
“ Section 213 of the USA Patriot Act authorizes federal agents to conduct “sneak- and- peak searches,” or covert searches of a person’s home or office without notice of the execution […] until after the search has been completed. ” Additionally Section 213 revokes former legislation saying that “[t]he officer taking property under the warrant shall give to the person from whom or from whose premises the property was taken a copy of the warrant and a receipt for the property taken or shall leave the copy and receipt at the place from which the property was taken.” It has to be pointed out that, Section 213 in not limited on terrorism investigations but extends to all criminal investigations, and it is not scheduled to expire.” ( see p.51,52)
Section 215 allows the FBI to obtain sensitive personal records by certifying that they are needed for an investigation “to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” The person in question does not necessarily have to be a suspect himself. Furthermore this procedure may also include U.S. citizens (see p.53).
Section 216 grants the government broad executive powers to “track both telephone and Internet “ dialling, routing, addressing and signalling information” anywhere within The United States when a government attorney has certified that the information to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.” (see p.54-57)
Section 411 imposes ideological tests on applicants for entry into the United States. In case the secretary of state finds that the applicant’s speech ”undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities” entry is barred to the person in question (see p.45). The government is hereby granted permission to criminalize political dissent and thus undermines a person’s freedom of speech. In combination Section 411 and 412 do not only expand the number of non-citizens subject to deportation on grounds of “terrorist activity” but also give the attorney general greater authority to place suspected non-citizens in detention while their deportation proceedings are pending. “The term ”engage in terrorist activity” has been expanded to include soliciting funds for, soliciting membership for, and providing material support to a “terrorist organization,” even when that organization has legitimate political and humanitarian ends and the non-citizen seeks only to support these lawful ends.” These sections hereby permit guilt to be imposed on grounds of political associations (see p.62,63). Solely based on the “attorney general’s certification that he has “reasonable grounds to believe” that a non-citizen is engaged in a terrorist activity, […] the INS may detain a non-citizen as long as seven days without charging him.” In case the person in question is also charged with an immigration violation, he or she “is subject to mandatory detention without release on bond until either he is deported […] or the attorney general determines that he should no longer be certified as a terrorist.” (p.64).
As the Sixth Amendment does only extend to criminal proceedings, those held custody for immigration violations do not have to be provided with free legal counsel. (p.65)
The aspects of the USA Patriot Act addressed above show that the legal changes that have been made in the aftermath of 9/11 do in fact grant the government wide executive power to fight terrorism and to increase security within the United States. However, Senator R. Feingold warned: “Of course, there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. […] if we lived in a country that allowed its government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on
What they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorist. But […] that would not be America.” (see p.14). All in all his words do describe the direction of the government efforts to create an environment in which terrorist activities can easily be unveiled and prevented. Yet they also describe that to create such an environment one would have to sacrifice civil liberties. The Bush administration was willing to do that. The changes in the legal system are of great impact, how they do influence the life of U.S. Muslims is described in 3.3.
3.3 Impact on the lives of Muslims in the USA
“[B]eing a Muslim changed in a sense that we were put in the spotlight and before as we believed we blended into the society now changed to a reminder that we do not. Our actions reflected the teachings of Islam so therefore, the weight of our responsibility was felt.[…] I agree with the critics, a signed piece of paper can take away the list of rights a citizen or resident has since the time this country was founded and more ironically from the principles on which this country was founded. It’s sheer discrimination to associate and label one group or ethnicity with the actions of individuals; this is not the American spirit nor was this what was being taught to children in public schools. […] but isolating a few and treating them differently only based on insignificant charges of tanned skin, language and belief most definitely takes away from their rights as people of this country.”(Nr.1)
“The whole attitude towards anyone of colour or one who might seem to represent Islam was open to backlash. The media played a key role in twisting around facts and igniting this flame. The essence of America was torn and it became truly hard for [Mu]slims who felt guilty for a crime that was wrongly done in the name of Islam. Muslims began to cover their identity and actually feared going out. It was a tough situation.” (Nr.2)
“ At first the same girl who people said they liked for her terrific personality and lots of other things, is now known as a cruel, heartless barbarian for following her religion which she has the full right to do so according to the Constitution […]I was talking about myself. People have committed plenty of hate crimes against me after 9/11.” (Nr.3)
“My activities have not changed drastically since 9/11 […] As long as I am law- abiding even as I express myself freely, I feel secure in the protection and guidance of Allah”(Nr.5,4,3,6,9,11,12)
“I've heard of instances where people were discriminated against […]Black people wanted to crucify Middle Easter people because it made them feel more American and more accepted by white America... "Look white man, look we can hate an entire group of people together and then we can be friends".. Never thought about it... but the aftermath of attitudes (pro-American) of 9-11 did make me less patriotic about this country (I hated all the damn flags) and less proud to be Black and made want to embrace Islam and Middle Eastern people more”(Nr.4)
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Pic 7 “Arab Go Home”
“On another note, I’ve noticed a phenom[e]n[a] of “instant-scholars” on Islam. They read one article and now know everything about the religion. This upsets me to no end. This has increased steadily since Sept 11.[…] . If they take away some rights, who will stop them from taking away more? It happened to the Japanese Americans in WW2, it could happen to us.”(Nr.7)
These excerpts give a rough idea what my interview partners have experienced since 9/11. Obviously none of them were really affected by the legal changes that have been made in the aftermath of 9/11. Unfortunately many Muslims do suffer from post 9/11 changes9: More than 1,200 people have been detained in the weeks after 9/11. " I've been completely crushed by this experience”, reports a Pakistani man who had been detained for months. He is not alone. “One Syrian family that had been in the United States for more than a decade was subject to a raid by federal agents; the father, mother, and college-age daughter were all taken into custody, and two young boys were left in the house alone. Once in prison, beatings were not uncommon, and one man who has been deported suffered assaults severe enough to permanently loosen most of his teeth”. Those families who suffer likewise from legal changes are not in the majority. None of my interview partners have experienced anything alike. A non-citizen who is held custody as described in 3.2 is “subject to mandatory detention without release on bond until either he is deported […] or the attorney general determines that he should no longer be certified as a terrorist.” (p.64).As immigration violations are not considered a criminal proceeding, the government does not have to provide the detainee with legal counsel. One possible scenario could look like this:
A neighbour of Ahmad Khan (Pakistani) reports him to the police. The neighbour is not sure if Mr. Khan is not somehow involved in terrorist activities. As a matter of fact he is always leaving his house in Pakistani clothes, never wearing western dresses. His visa has also expired. He is taken into custody.. During the first two weeks his family is not informed about his whereabouts. After that he is granted permission to call his wife, yet their financial situation does not allow them to contact a lawyer. Consequently Mr. Khan is not aware of his constitutional rights. After three months he is deported to Pakistan leaving his family behind.
This is only to give a rough idea of what has happened to more than 1200 people that have been detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and their families. However my interviews gave a very different picture. Reason for which is that a majority of Muslims are concerned about the current situation in the U.S., yet they themselves have not directly suffered from the legal changes that have been made after September 11th .
4. Muslim community – demands
“What is the role of our community & How can we improve our situation ? “
The role of Muslims in the United States has been examined even before 9-11. Murad Hoffmann , former German ambassador in Algeria and Morocco notes, “Muslims all over the word are looking with high expectations toward[s] the ummah* community in the United States and Canada. Its dynamism, fresh approach, enlightened scholarship and sheer growth is their hope for an Islamic renaissance worldwide.”
In the following there are some of the answers I received during my interview that address this issues:
“Previously the role of the Muslim community was not at all as it should be. Muslims and Islamic Centres kept their doors closed to the community and did their own thing. I believe they felt different and therefore did not try to get involved in the political system where decisions were made on their behalf because of their silence. The role of Muslims today has become clear, many have realized that Muslims are at fault and will continue to be at fault when it comes to their lack of interaction which has led to such an undeserved, stereotypical backlash. Islam can never be blamed for anything because it is seen as a solution to all the worldly problems. Currently, Muslims and Islamic Centres are making up for the decades of silence by opening their doors to the community, getting involved in the political system and having their voices heard.”(Nr.1)
“ One of my areas of research is Muslim influence on US policy. As a group, American Muslims block voted for bush in the 2000 elections. Before Sept 11, there was real chance that Bush would pay attention to our issues, like racial profiling and Israel. Of course, all that has been dramatically changed. However, American Muslims have the resources and smarts to be a major player in American Politics in the coming years. As we continue to grow as a group, and are now the second largest religious group in America, it is time that we take our place among the nation’s leaders and work to influence American politics and policies.” (Nr.7)
“We should get involve[d] with [the] local community and try to influence them with our way rather try to fit-in. Be insulated not isolated. Speak up and get involve in local politics and social services. .”(Nr.10)
Summing up these answers, my interview partners unanimously feel that Muslims should actively take part in the American society, interact with the mainstream culture to fight stereotypes and ultimately influence U.S. politics.
C) Final thoughts
It is Sunday morning 4:06 am. Tomorrow I have to submit this essay. It is almost a year now since I chose this topic. Almost one year during which I have thought about this essay, worked on it as well as postponed to deal with it. Now having spent this year I have to ask myself again: “Who are the Muslims living in the United States ? It is still difficult to answer, although I have been to New York, although I spoke to a college professor specialised on constitutional rights and despite my conducting a number of interviews with Muslims residing in the USA.
I think that Muslims are defined by their faith, their belief in The One God and yet I find that if I was to sum up my results in one word I would choose “diversity”. Muslims in the U.S. are a group that does not only include different ethnicities, but also various points of view. The terrible events of 9-11 gave the question who “they” are new relevance, brought the topic of my essay into the spotlight. Much has changed since, but the fact has not changed that those Muslims who live in the United States of America have to ask themselves like Zayed Yasin, whether they are an “inherent contradiction”. The answer for Yasin’s question is a choice that every Muslim living in the U.S. has to make himself. I on my part was extremely surprised to learn how positively a majority of Muslims feel about the U.S., how patriotic they are. At a Friday prayer in Queens, New York the Imam (priest) asked : “Why should we go? This is our country !” The majority of Muslims seems to have answered Yasin’s question with no.
Author, year, title, publishing company
My own interviews: Nr.1-12 excerpts are cited within the thesis
Chang, Nancy, 2002 “Silencing Political Dissent”, An Open Media Book- Seven Stories
Huntington, Samuel, 1993 “The Clash of Civilizations ?”, Foreign Affairs Al-Quaradawi, Yusuf, 1989 “Erlaubtes und Verbotenes im Islam”
SKD Bavaria Verlag und Handels GmbH
Yasin, Zayed, 2002 “My American Jihad” from www.islamicity.com/articles archive
American Muslim Poll (Nov/Dec 2001)
American Religious Identification Survey 2001 (Graduate Center Cuny; City University of NY)
The Pluralism Project (see link)
Pictures 1-5 taken from http://www.usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/muslimlife/demograp.htm Graphics 1 and 2 http://www.cair-net.org/
1 See www.discoverislam.com
All information for 1.1/1.2 is based on this website
* When speaking of prophets Muslims ad “peace be upon him/ them”
* forbidden after Islamic teachings
7 all of the information in 3.2 is based on Silencing Political Dissent, Nancy Chang, 2002
9 see www.ccr-ny.org7v2/education/september_11_print.asp
- Quote paper
- Aymar Pirzada (Author), 2003, Muslim life in the United States - post 9/11 changes, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/107750