By Shamshad Ahmad
September 10, 2013
Another Sept. 11 anniversary — the 12th of the heartbreaking, horrific event — is upon us once again. Yet despite high hopes and expectations, the situation of American Muslims has not changed much since the past anniversaries.
As in past years, marginalization of Muslims and treatment of them as "different," rather than as an integral part of the general population, still persist. American Muslims still face growing Islamophobia by individuals, groups, and governments using a variety of tactics. Spying on Muslims and their institutions by the New York Police Department, mapping their neighborhoods and businesses, widespread FBI surveillance and continued legal entrapment are just a few examples. Those with Muslim names, those who "look Muslim," as well as Muslim neighborhoods, mosques, charities and institutions, have become easy, justifiable targets. Suspicion and opposition to anything related to Muslims, Arabs or Islam have become commonplace. FBI and Immigration authorities' secret programs to indefinitely delay immigration applications of Muslims and those from Muslim countries have come to the surface lately.
Some politicians and many radio talk show hosts have concluded that Islamophobia is the shortcut to their success and popularity. Their efforts — supplemented by some extremist religious groups, hatemongers, and bigoted bloggers — are disturbing to Muslims and dangerous to society as a whole. The disinformation and propaganda spread by these individuals and groups have resulted in physical attacks, harassment, vilification and vandalism and desecration of mosques and Muslim cemeteries.
Post-9/11 spying, initially focused on Muslims and mostly ignored by the general public and media, allowed the government to cast a much bigger net, and paved the way for spying on the general population. Stop-and-frisk policies and revelations of enhanced NSA surveillance are the unsurprising "next steps." These efforts initially devastated Muslims, but now they are causing damage to our larger society. They violate the civil rights and liberty of individuals, degrade America's national prestige, and ignore Constitutional protections. Instituted by our government, these tactics have brought America to the edge of a "non-American" state.
On this anniversary, it has become obvious, more so than in the past, that fair-minded Americans, interfaith organizations, human and civil rights activists and constitutionalists must rise to these challenges. Muslims count on these groups to help minimize biases against them, since Muslim-Americans are an integral part of American society and share equally in its well-being and concerns. We and our children deserve the same treatment as everyone else.
I'm proud that Muslims enjoy a harmonious relationship as neighbors and colleagues with the overwhelming majority of non-Muslims here in the Capital Region. We feel relatively fortunate to live in an area where non-Muslim individuals and organizations are well-informed about Islamophobia and are constantly supporting us to make sure that we enjoy equal rights and equitable treatment. I am grateful to fair-minded, non-Muslim Americans everywhere whose sincere support makes American Muslims proud to be part of this country.
So let us mourn the 12th anniversary of 9/11 with compassion, and pray for the victims and their families. I also pray that the Almighty gives us the wisdom to live together as proud Americans with love and care.
Shamshad Ahmad is president of the Masjid As-Salam in Albany, and a professor of physics at the University at Albany. He is author of a book, "Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9-11."