FIVE YEARS AFTER: A POST-9/11 IDENTITY SHIFT
A Muslim homemaker from La Habra Heights, assuming authorities monitor her charity donations, has stopped giving to “any Muslim charity that touched my heart” and now contributes to less-suspected organizations.
In Sacramento, a young imam has broken with an ancient tradition among Muslim prayer leaders by shaving part of his beard to appear less threatening to non-Muslims.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, they say, increased scrutiny and suspicion have made them more cautious about expressing their faith. Other California Muslims have taken a different approach.
In Irvine, a 19-year-old hijab-wearing UC Irvine student and others in her school’s Muslim Student Union staged a program in May critical of Israel called Holocaust in the Holy Land. She also helps organize rallies and fundraisers to support Muslims whom she believes have been unfairly targeted by federal investigators.
The experiences of the homemaker, the imam and the student reflect the transforming and sometimes contradictory effects of Sept. 11 on Muslims in the United States. In the five years since the terrorist attacks, some Muslims have tried to be less visible, others more bold, as they live and work beside their fellow Americans.
“We are witnessing the creation of a new Muslim American identity that is still a work in progress,” said Zahid H. Bukhari, director of the American Muslim studies program at Georgetown University.
“In times past, it happened to African Americans, Latinos, Jews, Japanese and Catholics; now, it’s Muslims’ turn to become part of the fabric of American life,” he said. “Before 9/11, many Muslims were physically here but mentally living back in their homelands. That is starting to change.”
Many who study U.S. Muslims say that, without Sept. 11, it might have taken the diverse, reclusive and largely immigrant community another decade to enter the public square.
The acts of terrorism on American soil forced them into it, albeit under what some Muslims believe are the prying eyes of government, the media or neighbors.