9/11 is No Excuse for Bashing Muslims


Violent jihadists don’t represent Islam any more than the Anders Breiviks of the world represent Christianity.

J. Richard CohenBy J. Richard Cohen

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we’ll be transfixed once more by images of the planes ramming into the World Trade Center and people, caught in the flames, leaping to their deaths. We’ll see pictures of the burning Pentagon and hear stories of the heroic firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives to save others.

And we’ll be reminded that, despite Osama bin Laden’s death, violent jihadists are still a threat.

We’d be naive to think otherwise. What’s more, the threat has morphed in recent years. While we’ve made progress in eroding al-Qaeda’s capacity to launch attacks from overseas, we’ve seen an increase in plots hatched by “homegrown” terrorists — U.S. citizens or permanent residents inspired by extremist, al-Qaeda-like ideology. Indeed, half of the “homegrown” plots since 9/11 have occurred in the last two years, many of them instigated by the FBI.

There’s yet another danger, not only to our physical security but to our character as a people. It’s a danger that President George W. Bush warned the country about in the days following 9/11: the danger of branding all Muslims as our enemies.

(David Shankbone / Flickr)

Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a revival of the Muslim-bashing that fueled a 1,600-percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2001.

During the last presidential election, Barack Obama, a Christian, was portrayed as a Muslim and even a terrorist sympathizer.

Then, last year, anti-Muslim activists coalesced in opposition to the so-called “ground zero mosque,” a proposal to build an Islamic center two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center. Exploiting the memory of 9/11, a small cadre of extremists who opposed the project created a national controversy brimming with bigotry and intolerance. They wanted nothing less than to deny American Muslims their rights under our Constitution.

The question some are asking is whether the anniversary of 9/11 will spark another jihadist attack. A more likely possibility? A new round of Muslim-bashing across America from those who want to divide, rather than unite, us — from those who forget there were many Muslims who died on that day and who would equate all Muslims with terrorists.

Their words — their depictions of Islam as a virulent political movement rather than a religion — have consequences.

We saw it in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when a Sikh man was fatally shot outside a gas station in Mesa, Arizona. His killer mistook him for a Muslim.

We saw it in 2008, when three men burned down a mosque outside Nashville.

And we saw it on July 22, when Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 77 people, mostly teenagers, in Norway.

Breivik cast himself as a Christian knight dedicated to stemming the tide of Muslim immigration. He wanted to jolt his country into recognizing what he viewed as the threat of multiculturalism in Europe. In a 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik cited the words of Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller, and other U.S.-based Islamophobes dozens of times, making clear their influence on him.

So as we mark this solemn anniversary, we must remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism by Islamists who preach an anti-Semitic ideology that is antithetical to our democratic values.

At the same time, we must remember that violent jihadists don’t represent Islam any more than the Anders Breiviks of the world represent Christianity. Our democratic values require nothing less.

J. Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and antigovernment extremists. www.splcenter.org

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12 Comments

Filed under Crime, History, Human Rights, NEWS, Opinion, Politics, Religion, WAR

12 responses to “9/11 is No Excuse for Bashing Muslims

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. People seem to have forgotten it was not just Christians who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks – muslims were in those blocks too !

    There has been a widespread tendency (not just in the USA, but in the UK and elsewhere) to view all muslims as potential terrorists. The vile acts of a minority of muslims who have a twisted interpretation of islam should not be seen as representative of views of the majority of muslims. Anymore than the actions of Christian terrorists represent the views of the majority of christians

    http://mhextra.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/terrorism-stop-blaming-muslims/

    • Incidentally, if you have not already seen it, it is well worth watching a recent film called ‘My name is Khan’ (and I’m not a terrorist)

      The film deals with the way US citizens who happen to be muslim have been treated since 9/11 – told through the story of one man who suffers from asperger’s syndrome

      You can view trailers on youtube –

  2. i am a Muslim and i am not terrorist 😀

  3. WILD BEAST ANIMAL HAVE NO COURT YARD

    ALLAH HAS CREATED ISLAM

    LAWS & ORDERS OF ALLAH UTTERED BY 1st
    HUMAN COUPLE ANCESSTOR CALLED PROPHET ADAM WITH HIS WIVE ( HAWA = EVA ) UP TO LAST PROPHET OF
    ALLAH MUHAMMAD 1400 YEARS AGO

    MUHAMMAD THE MESSANGER OF ALLAH WAS THE FIRST MAN ON ON EARTH WHO ESTABLISHED
    LAWS/ORDERS OF ALLAH
    BASED ON AL’QURAN
    SINCE 1400 YEARS AGO
    UP TO NOWDAYS AS WE
    SAW IN COURT OF ISLAM RELIGION ESPECIALLY TO CIVILZED ISLAM BELIEVERS & OTHERS DURING THEIR LIVE TIME ON EARTH
    FOR PUNISHED CRIMINAL &
    TERORIST

    * IF U NEED A JUSTICE
    DON’T GO TO THE ZOO OR BAR FOR DRUNKARD PEOPLE

    GO TO THE COURT NOW

    FOR PUNISH THAT
    CRIMINAL & TERORIST

  4. jennygoth

    violence doesnt win anything except guilt and purgotary when their time comes xxjen

  5. ninjanurse

    That’s a powerful comparison. My family has become interfaith through marriage, and my favorite diner is a block from a mosque. There is no American religion, but there is an American tradition of freedom of religion.

  6. Well said … and most Christians don’t know much about Islam.

  7. The ultra right-wing of the republican party, and that includes the tea party, scream and shout about Sharia law, and it’s purported influence here in this country. What they fail to understand, and it’s basically because they’re too stupid to, is Sharia law could never be implemented here because we have something just a bit more important: the United States Constitution and the bill of rights.

    The Constitution itself forbids anything religious from taking over this country’s laws. It falls under the first amendment; the one the right seems to think doesn’t separate church and state, but does so in so few words, it’s meaning is perfectly clear. If we have a religion to worry about in this country, it’s the bastardized version being thrown at us from people like Perry and Brownback: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fact-sheet-gov-rick-perry%E2%80%99s-extremist-allies

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