Was There Really a Post-9/11 Backlash Against Muslims?

Over at Commentary, Jonathan Tobin complains that “most of the mainstream media still takes it as a given that there is an ongoing and brutal post-9/11 backlash against Muslims in America that fuels discrimination against followers of Islam.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the backlash characterized as “brutal” in the mainstream media, or that anyone has bothered to actually quantify media coverage on the subject. It would be helpful to have links to the specific coverage Tobin is complaining about. But I am among those who thinks that Muslims face both informal prejudice and are discriminated against by the state, while Tobin says “there is virtually no evidence for this assertion and much empirical data to argue for the opposite conclusion.”

He goes on to cite census data showing that the number of Muslims in America is growing, up 1.6 million in the 10-year period that ended in 2010. “Is it possible or even likely that Islam would be thriving in the United States if it were not a society that is welcoming Muslims with open arms and providing a safe environment for people to openly practice this faith?” he asks. “The answer is an obvious no.” Before concluding he offers three additional arguments to consider:

  • “Every new survey about American society continues to show there are no obstacles to Muslim advancement or systematic ill treatment.”
  • “Those who make these false claims argue that law enforcement activities seeking to root out Islamist support for terrorism either abroad or at home constitutes a form of discrimination. But such actions, such as the New York Police Department’s surveillance of mosques or community centers where Islamists have congregated, are reasonable reactions to a real threat that deserves the attention of the authorities, not the product of arbitrary bias. Nor do they threaten the vast majority of Muslims who are hard working, law-abiding citizens.”

“America is not perfect, but it is a far safer place to practice Islam, or any other faith, than almost all Muslim countries, where religious-based discrimination is commonplace and dissent is ruthlessly wiped out. The backlash myth may die hard, but it remains a myth.”

Lessons in Hate and Violence: The Same Old Story – Commentary on a Channel 4 Documentary

17 February 2011

Prior to the transmission of Channel 4’s Dispatches, Lessons in Hate and Violence, a number of newspapers ran articles about the extremism and abuse in some mosques and madrassas. Muslim groups gave their reaction after the programme aired. The British Muslim Forum condemned abuse and bigotry but said that such incidents and attitudes were not widespread in the 2,000 Islamic institutions across Britain. It urged Channel 4 not to “fall in the trap of ‘Islam bashing’ or creating fear, hatred and racism against Muslims and their holy faith as has become fashionable these days by over-generalising and exaggerating such isolated incidents.”

The group also said it was “of extreme concern that the programme producers were aware of the incidents since July 2010 but failed to pass the information on to the relevant authorities, thereby compromising the health and safety of the children involved”.

CNN Commentary: “New media, new Muslim voices” – Michael Wolfe urges more Muslim participation in new forms of media and communication

Author and non-profit founder Michael Wolfe contributes a special commentary on CNN, concerning the needed voices of Muslims in US Media and journalism. Wolfe asks: “With all the focus on Islam and Muslims in the news, the voices of American Muslim civic leaders, or even ordinary Muslims going about their daily business, are too often missing in stories about their own communities here and abroad. Why is it we so often hear what this or that expert thinks about Muslims yet so rarely hear what Muslims themselves think?” His CNN commentary questions the all the all too common remarks that Muslims don’t show their faces to American media enough, but Wolfe argues that Muslim Americans are still striving to make their voices heard on various American media platforms. Wolfe points to the increasing vocality of Muslim American bloggers such as Eboo Patel, Wajahat Ali, and Souheila Al-Jada – who are contributing to the marketplace of ideas online and sharing their perspectives on important issues. For those “American Muslims, who have often found themselves left out of mainstream media discourse, the possibilities are now vastly improved,” he writes.