Two Decades After 9/11, Racism Against Arabs and Muslims Continues to Rise

 Two Decades After 9/11, Racism Against Arabs and Muslims Continues to Rise

التميز والعنصرية ضد العرب  المسلمين

By: Fatmeh Atieh Bakhit
Al Enteshar Newspaper

Despite two decades passing since 9/11 occurred, Muslim Americans continue to disproportionately be the targets of hate violence in the United States, third only to Black people and the Jewish community.

In 2019, the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report logged 273 hate crimes involving Muslim American victims. That number dropped to 171 in 2021 — the last year for which data is available — because several major law enforcement regions, including Los Angeles County, New York, Miami, and Chicago did not submit data, due to a new platform for reporting (Department of Justice, 2019).

In more recent events, In March 2023, California lawmaker, Aisha Wahab faced a series of Islamophobic attacks after introducing a bill aimed at addressing caste discrimination in the state. Wahab, who is Muslim American received a barrage of racist and anti-Muslim messages, including death threats, from individuals opposed to the bill. “My last name is Wahab, so they love to tie it to Wahhabism, or call me a jihadist or a Talibani. Basically, every racial slur and dog whistle,” Wahab told Time (Middle East Eye, 2023).

Muslims in the United States have always lived on the margins of society due to their small number, weak political participation, and the great difference between them in terms of origins, religious sects, and even social classes and statuses (Ali, 2021). The September 11 attacks were a turning point in the fate of Muslims in the United States, as after the incident they became major targets for local hate crimes, discrimination, and exclusion, and in light of the fact that some politicians, the media and public opinion in the country randomly classified them as “enemies of the state” and linked them closely to topics such as ” State Security” and “domestic terrorism”. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI conducted surveillance on Muslim-American communities under the guise of national security. This involved enlisting Muslim Americans as informants to spy on other Muslims, including those in Orange County, California. However, the FBI’s actions were later challenged in court by Muslim leaders, such as Sheik Yassir Fazaga from the Orange County Islamic Foundation (OCIF), and members of the Islamic Center of Irvine (ICOI), Ali Uddin Malik and Yasser Abdelrahim, who accused the Bureau of unfairly targeting Muslim communities. (ACLU, 2016).

Alongside the FBI surveillance came the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), The NSEERS program was established by the US government in response to the September 11 attacks. The program required non-citizen males, mostly from Muslim countries, to register with the government and undergo background checks. They were also required to periodically report to immigration officials and to provide information about changes in their employment or address. However, the program faced strong criticism for being discriminatory and for unfairly targeting Muslim communities. The program was suspended in 2011 and officially terminated in 2016 by the Department of Homeland Security (Department of Homeland Security, 2011).

With the “Islamic State” organization launching terrorist attacks around the world, the momentum of the alienation of Muslims and Arabs in the United States increased in a hidden way, and in addition to that, former US President Donald Trump issued during his presidency a decision tainted with discrimination to prevent Muslims from entering the United States, to become the only last In the world that issued a travel ban targeting Arab Muslims, and President Trump himself made inappropriate and anti-Muslim statements on many public occasions, not only did this not only exacerbate the sense of isolation of Muslims in the United States, but also contributed to the exacerbation of ethnic conflicts and identity crisis in American society (Pew Research Center, 2017). Right-wing and anti-Muslim organizations seized this opportunity to expand their influence. In response to Executive Order 13769, also known as the Trump Muslim Ban, a series of legal challenges and court injunctions led to modifications and revisions of the policy. The Supreme Court upheld the third version of the ban, which limited travel from several Muslim-majority countries and was widely criticized for contributing to anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States (United States Federal Register, 2017).

Following his inauguration in January 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order titled “Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States,” revoking the Muslim Ban and other related orders. The Biden administration has also taken additional measures to address the impact of the ban, including directing the Department of Homeland Security to review cases where individuals were denied visas under the ban and providing guidance to U.S. embassies and consulates on visa applications from affected individuals (The White House, 2021).

Despite the current US President, Joe Biden sending positive signals in favor of Muslims through immigration and refugee policies, hiring public sector employees and other measures after assuming the presidency, the life conditions of Muslims in the United States are still worrying in recent years, although there are some efforts to address this issue, including This includes government initiatives and community efforts. For example, the Department of Justice created a civil rights division to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have worked to promote understanding and cooperation between American Muslims and their fellow citizens. In March 2022, CAIR released a report documenting a surge in anti-Muslim incidents and hate crimes in the United States in 2021. The report found that there were 983 reported anti-Muslim incidents in 2021, including 143 hate crimes. This represents a 58% increase in reported incidents from the previous year, and the highest number of reported incidents since CAIR began tracking such data in 2014 (CAIR, 2021).

The lack of fairness in legislation and the judiciary has led to the existence of gray areas in the interpretation and enforcement of the law. Although the First Amendment to the US Constitution provided for freedom of religion, with the aim of ensuring that the government maintains neutrality in front of various religious denominations and guarantees the freedom of religious belief for citizens. However, in addition to Executive Resolution No. 13769 issued by former US President Donald Trump to prevent Muslims from entering the United States, there are model laws issued with the aim of guarding against Muslims and their legal foundations are represented in taking Muslims as “dangerous others” who should – of course – be monitored until restriction Their movements, including the Patriot Act and Programs to Counter Violent Extremism, among others.

Arabs and Muslims in the United States still suffer from the effects of “Islamophobia”, which lies in aspects of American society. The reason why it is called “structural” is due to the rootedness of anti-Muslim prejudice in all levels of the government system. On the one hand, prejudice is reflected in the daily actions of the police, the media, and the legal system. On the other hand, it is directly manifested through anti-Muslim organizations, anti-Muslim assemblies, and organized community activities. To oppose the construction or expansion of mosques, the destruction of public property, and the resettlement of refugees. Specifically, the structural discrimination faced by Muslims in the United States involves many levels from policy to societal treatment, according to the director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Whilst conducting an interview with Hisham Sitita, the Founder of the Islamic Center of Bilal Mosque, Mr. Sitita was asked his thoughts on the anti- Muslim assemblies seen throughout the country. In response, Mr. Sitita stated “It is priority to ensure that Muslims from all over feel comfortable coming to the masjids to gather and pray. We must actively stand against these acts of terror” (Sitita, 2023).

Media bias has exacerbated the marginalization of Muslims in American society and increased their sense of isolation. And that the mainstream American media has clear anti-Muslim tendencies dating back to before the outbreak of the “September 11” attacks, and Muslims have become the minority that dealt most negatively with it in the media because of the latter’s great efforts to distort their image. An analysis of the New York Times and Washington Post speech showed that if the perpetrator commits a violent crime against a Muslim, the probability of the media revealing this crime increased by incredible proportions, and the contents of the article on the crime doubled as well, compared to the case of the perpetrator being a non-Muslim (Lichtblau, 2016).

The detailed reports of the two newspapers, which deliberately highlight the identity of the Muslim, were filled with stereotypes as well, and words and phrases with a strong negative orientation were repeated, such as ” Violence, anger, madness, impoliteness, rationality, and danger”, and mixed at various levels sayings “Islam is a violent religion” or “Muslims want to destroy American democracy and Western cultures”. Not only arouse more suspicion, anxiety, and tension towards Muslims in American society, but also lead to an increase in Muslims’ sense of isolation in the United States and weaken their trust in the government. During an interview with Dr. Sayed Jummah, the Imam of the Islamic Center of Reseda, Dr. Jummah discussed the prominence of Muslim speech found throughout the United States stating, “Islamophobia is as prevalent as ever, Muslim Americans are still presented as evil and dangerous in the media” (Dr. Jummah, 2023).

Overall, Muslim Americans continue to be disproportionately targeted by hate violence. Despite efforts by some politicians and organizations to combat this issue, the life conditions of Muslims in the United States remain concerning. The FBI surveillance, the NSEERS program, the Trump Muslim Ban, and other discriminatory policies have contributed to the exacerbation of ethnic conflicts and identity crises in American society. The surge in anti-Muslim incidents and hate crimes in 2021, as reported by CAIR, highlights the urgent need for more comprehensive and effective measures to address this issue. It is crucial for lawmakers, law enforcement, and individuals to recognize the diversity and complexity of Muslim Americans and work towards promoting understanding and cooperation between all citizens, regardless of their religion or background. Only then can we truly achieve a more inclusive and tolerant society.


ACLU. (2016, August 16). How the FBI Spied on Orange County Muslims — and Attempted to Get Away With It. ACLU.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). (2021). 2021 Annual Report. Retrieved from

Executive Order 13769: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. (2017). Federal Register, 82(20), 8977-8981.

Middle East Eye. (2021, March 26). US: California lawmaker faces Islamophobic attacks for introducing anti-caste bill. Retrieved from

New York Times. (2016, September 18). Hate crimes against American Muslims have risen, and many blame the rhetoric of the election. The New York Times.

Pew Research Center. (2017, July 26). The Muslim-American Experience in the Trump Era. Pew Research Center.

Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States. (2021). The White House.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2011, May 13). DHS removes designated countries from NSEERS registration.

U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Service. (2020). FY 2019 Hate Crime Highlights.

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