Muslims As an Ethnicity in the United States Essay

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Muslims in America

The status of Muslims in America changed radically in the wake of 9/11 (Sheridan, 2006). A small population by percentage (American-Muslims are only 1% of the U.S. population) (Besheer, 2016), Muslims nonetheless received the vast bulk of negative attention and backlash following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. As an ethnic group, Muslims were well-connected both domestically and internationally -- and many Muslims reached out to the U.S. government post-9/11 in an effort to work with federal agencies to help address the issues arising from the climate of terror (Mantri, 2011). Haddad (2001) writing prior to the 9/11 attacks stated that Muslims in the U.S. "have mostly lived on the margins" of the nation's "political life," have a high degree of "ethnic diversity" within their own groups, and lack the political experience needed for "political integration" in America (p. 91). At the same time, admits Haddad (2001), the teaming up of the "Zionist lobby and the Christian Right" has resulted in the marginalization of Muslims in America, "a coalition of Arab-American and Muslim political action groups" supported the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2000 and helped provide support in the final swing state of Florida in an otherwise tight race (p. 91). Thus, while Muslim Americans are certainly not a major social or political group in the U.S., they have helped to shape certain outcomes -- though they have also been shaped by 9/11 and the ensuing terror attacks around the world. This paper will discuss Muslim-American mobilization before and after 9/11, examine their status pre-9/11 and how it has changed since.

The wars in the Middle East in the 21st century have been catastrophic for the some Muslim communities there while simultaneously being supported by other Muslim communities.

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9/11 served as the catalyst for these wars and also amplified the fragmentation of the Muslim world as in-fighting escalated into factional wars from Yemen to Syria. To say that Muslims are an ethnic group would be highly misleading because there are so many varieties of Islam (it is akin to saying Christians or Jews are ethnicities -- it is simply not true). However, in America, the Muslim population is fragmented. Indeed, as Bakalian and Bozorgmehr (2005) show, 9/11 led to many Muslim Americans mobilizing in the face of bias and anti-Muslim immigration laws.

Prior to 9/11 Muslim American communities had been targeted by authorities -- especially in the 1960s and 1970s when Muslim American leader like Malcolm X was assassinated, followed later by the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. Mohammed Ali was targeted for his refusal to fight in Vietnam as well as for his outspoken criticism of the cultural and political Establishment in America. These individuals inspired the next generation of Muslim Americans led by such diverse men as Louis Farrakhan to Chuck D. of Public Enemy (Turner, 2003, p. xxviii). Thus even before 9/11, the Muslim American population was sensitive to and aware of its outsider status, which was understood to be the effect of numerous causes -- from racism to moral and religious bias to cultural prejudice. The centralization of power in America by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) and Zionists meant that Muslims would never have a comfortable or welcomed place in American society (Haddad, 2001). The leadership of men like Malcolm X helped many African-American Muslims to become self-conscious and politically activated -- but Arab-American Muslim population did not particularly benefit from this approach as it was primarily oriented….....

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Bakalian, A., Bozorgmehr, M. (2005). Muslim American mobilization. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 14(1): 7-43.

Besheer, M. (2016). A new estimate of the U.S. Muslim population. Pew Research. Retrieved from

Haddad, Y. (2001). Muslims in U.S. politics: Recognized and integrated, or seduced and abandoned? SAIS Review, 21(2): 91-102.

Mantri, G. (2011). Homegrown Terrorism. Harvard International Review, 33(1), 88-104.

Melissinos, G. (2014). From backlash to mobilization: Muslim American prayer spaces in post-9/11 New York. Graduate Center, City University of New York. Retrieved from

Pew Research Center. (2007). Muslim Americans.

Sheridan, L. (2006). Islamophobia pre- and post-September 11th, 2001. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(3): 317-336

Turner, R. B. (2003). Islam in the African-American Experience. IN: Indiana

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