10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Muslim Americans: the Need for a New Narrative

John L. Esposito and Mona Mogahed

While post-9/11 resulted in necessary Western government responses to counter international and domestic terrorism, this tragic event has been widely exploited by far-right neocons, hardline Christian Zionist Right and xenophobic forces. Islam and mainstream Muslims have been brush-stroked with “terrorism,” equated with the actions of a fraction of violent extremists. Major polls by Gallup, PEW and others reported the extent to which many Americans and Europeans had and have a problem not only with terrorists but also with Islam and all Muslims.

It is truly time for a new narrative, one that is informed by facts, and that is data-driven, to replace the shrill voices of militant Muslim bashers and opportunistic politicians chasing funds and votes. Key findings from the recently released Abu Dhabi Gallup Report, Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future, offer data that provide a good starting point — a very different picture of Muslims in America today.

This September 11th provides an opportunity to remember the past but also to recognize that truth is stranger than fiction, the fiction constructed by preachers of hate whose fear-mongering has infected our popular culture and society. Now is the time to reassess and rebuild our national unity on the facts.

U.S. Issues Terrorism Alert for Travel to Europe

On Oct 3rd, the U.S. State Department issued an alert urging Americans traveling to Europe to be vigilant about possible terrorist attacks. The British government, meanwhile, raised the threat of terrorism to “high” from “general” for Britons in France and Germany.

“Current information suggests that Al Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack,” according to the State Department statement.

The advisory says Americans should be aware that terrorists often target popular tourist attractions and public transportation such as subways and rail systems. It doesn’t warn Americans not to travel to the region.

NY Town Tells Muslim Community to Close Cemetery, Remove 2 Corpses: Leaders Say it’s Bigotry

SIDNEY CENTER, N.Y. (AP) — Officials in a rural upstate New York town are trying to force a group of Muslims to dig up two bodies in their cemetery, saying the burials were illegal.

But the Sufi group, which has documents that appear to support the cemetery’s legality, says the town board’s actions were motivated by a wave of anti-Islamic sentiment fueled by the uproar over a planned mosque near ground zero.

Hans Hass of the Osmanli Naksibendi Hakkani community, 130 miles northwest of New York City, said Tuesday that the Sufi community learned only recently about the Sidney Town Board’s vote in August to pursue legal action to shut down the community’s cemetery.

Manhattan: American Muslim Day Parade Held on Sunday

The annual American Muslim Day Parade, first held in 1985, was celebrated in Manhattan on Sunday amid controversy. The event brings together Muslims of many ethnicities and nationalities who worship in the New York region. The parade is intended as a celebration of diversity and pride in the Muslim community, but this year it had a difficult context: national controversies over a planned Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, the threatened desecration of Korans by anti-Muslim ministers, and recent incidences of what the authorities called hate crimes against Muslims, including a New York City cabdriver who was slashed.

Muslim Center’s Developer to Use Islamic Loan Plan

Sharif el-Gamal, the developer, of the planned Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero envisions raising $140 million project by utilizing instruments developed to allow many Muslim investors to comply with religious prohibitions on interest. Most of the financing, Mr. Gamal said on Wednesday, would come through religiously sanctioned bondlike investments known as sukuk, devised in Muslim nations to allow religious Muslims to take part in the global economy and increasingly explored by American banks. Sukuk and other Islamic banking instruments are tracked on the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index.

Of the $140 million, Gamal, is hoping to raise $27 million through a nationwide campaign which will focus on small donations from Muslims and other supporters. The remaining bill will be financed, to build the 15-story center, which will eventually have about 4,330 paying members. Most of that core group, Mr. Gamal expects, would be non-Muslim neighborhood residents and commuters. Muslims from around the region would make up a larger but less frequently visiting group — what he calls the “dinner and a date” crowd — many of them choosing the cheapest $375 family membership for cultural programs.

Mr. Gamal and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is his planning partner in the project, have promised that they will invite the federal government to review all the donations.

Feds to Drop Charges Against Muslim Man Unfairly Targeted by the FBI

On Wednesday, Assistant United States Attorney Patrick R. Fitzgerald filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against Niazi, which included five counts of making false statements, unlawful procurement of naturalization, use of a passport obtained by fraud, and perjury. Niazi was facing a maximum possible sentence of 35 years in jail.

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to drop charges against the Afghan-born brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, saying a key overseas witness was unavailable to testify. The motion to dismiss was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in the case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, who had been accused by prosecutors of lying about his ties to terrorist groups on his citizenship application.

East St. Louis Man, in Eight Hour Standoff Wanted War with Muslims, FBI States

A man who held federal agents at bay with fake explosives threatened to start a war between Muslims and Christians. He also threatened to kill President Barack Obama, according to charges filed against him Wednesday.

The eight-hour standoff Tuesday night began after FBI and Secret Service agents, accompanied by police, went to the home of Roman Otto Conaway, to query him about a report that he had been making threats. He eventually surrendered on the promise of getting a mental health evaluation.

Conaway said that he wanted to start a war between Christians and Muslims, kill Obama and other government officials, end the war in Afghanistan “which (expletive) Bush started” and ‘start an Apocalypse,” court documents say.

A few minutes later, Conaway posted an online message on the Facebook social network, claiming he would burn a Quran at 3 p.m. Several hours later, he posted, “i need everbody with a camera phone or video phone or video cameras to come to 9030 summit drive in fairview heights illinois. the media and your goverment thinks this isa joke. im not joking.”

“I humbly apologize for my actions,” Conaway later told agents.

Discrimination Toward Muslims on the Rise at Work

Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the United States population, however, they accounted for about one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the E.E.O.C. last year. At a time of growing tensions involving Muslims in the United States, a record number of Muslim workers are complaining of employment discrimination and prejudice, from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks. The rising number of complaints by Muslims, which exceeds even the amount filed in the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, comes as tensions rise between Muslim Americans and those of other faiths.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found enough merit in some of the complaints that it has filed several prominent lawsuits on behalf of Muslim workers.

Polls have shown that many Americans feel a growing wariness toward Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and after years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mosques and Islamic community centers in the United States — most prominently one proposed near ground zero in Manhattan — have faced substantial opposition. And a Florida pastor received national attention this month for threatening to burn the Koran on Sept. 11.

Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry

NYT Op-ED Columnist: NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

“…I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.”

Muslim Leaders Unite Behind Center

Leaders of local and national groups gathered at the site of the planned center, two blocks from ground zero, and declared not only that the planners had a constitutional right to build it, but also that they would help the project move forward in the face of heated opposition. They insisted that, as a matter of principle, the center should not budge from its planned site.

The Muslim leaders called on elected officials “to join their colleagues in denouncing and rejecting inflammatory rhetoric that endangers the lives of Muslim Americans.”

The proposed Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan got its strongest vote of confidence yet from major Muslim leaders on Monday, after months of behind-the-scenes grumbling that they were not properly consulted on the project, and a day’s worth of intense and painful conversations at a hotel near Kennedy International Airport.