American Muslims Still Live in a Climate of Hate

Less than a week after Osama bin Laden's death, individual acts of Islamophobic hate still make news.

By Asraa Mustufa May 06, 2011

News of Osama bin Laden’s death has not come without more incidents of backlash towards American Muslims. These individual episodes reflect not only the Islamophobia rampant in this country, but also the government policies that have fostered a culture of hate and suspicion towards law-abiding Muslims.

A mosque in Maine was vandalized with the messages "Osama today, Islam tomorrow" and "Go Home." In Houston, a schoolteacher was disciplined for racially profiling a Muslim ninth-grader by asking if she was grieving her uncle’s death on Monday. Also this week, Mohamed Kotbi, an Arab waiter who is suing his employer, the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, for religious and racial discrimination following the 9/11 attacks, has reported more taunts from co-workers following bin Laden’s death. 

While feds assured Muslims and Arab-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan this week that they would not be profiled in the aftermath of the al-Qaeda leader’s death, for some, it’s hard to imagine a Department of Homeland Security that doesn’t discriminate against Muslims absent a major overhaul of the system. As Seth Freed Wessler reported on Wednesday for Colorlines, racial and religious profiling has been a central feature of the national security apparatus erected after 9/11. Immigration and law enforcement policies have been targeted against citizen and immigrant Muslims or those from Muslim-populated countries in a way that treats them indiscriminately as security threats. While the DHS recently dropped their controversial NSEERS or "Special Registration" program, profiling remains official policy at US borders, airports, in the immigration system, and by local police. 

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations recently filed complaints with the DHS and DOJ citing dozens of reports from constituents who were detained at the Canadian border without predication of crimes or charges and asked questions about their worship habits, including how often and where they pray. DHS is launching an investigation into the claims. 

Local police are also trained and instructed to view Islamic religious activity with suspicion. The NYPD published a report on homegrown terrorism in 2007, which listed giving up drinking or gambling, wearing Islamic clothing, growing a beard, and becoming involved in social activism and community issues as indications of a person’s growing "radicalization." 

NYU Law School’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF) released a report this week entitled "Under the Radar." Among the issues addressed, the study details how lower evidentiary standards and lack of due process rights and transparency are used to subject Muslims to unsubstantiated terrorism allegations, prolonged detention, or deportation in cases involving ordinary or minor immigration violations.

"The overall effect of these practices is that religious, cultural, and political affiliations and lawful activities of Muslims are being construed as dangerous terrorism-related factors to justify detention, deportation, and denial of immigration benefits," the report reads.

Although many are hopeful that the demise of the face of terrorism might usher a turning point in how American Muslims are viewed and treated, the death of Osama bin Laden does not change the fact that profiling of Muslims is not only sanctioned, but employed by various facets of government. Such policies help create a climate in which people feel safe acting and speaking out of hate and suspicion towards Muslims.