Washington, DC – Hassan Sheikh was in his highschool world research class in Detroit, Michigan, on the morning of the 9/11 assaults.

As an alternative of taking the take a look at that was scheduled, he watched the second airplane crash into the World Commerce Middle in New York Metropolis after his instructor swiftly wheeled a tv into the classroom.

“We had been all simply watching in shock,” Sheikh, now 34, remembers. “We couldn’t grasp the gravity of the scenario at that time.”

By the next day, Sheikh, who’s Muslim and the son of Pakistani immigrants, says it turned clear to him that the occasions of September 11, 2001, would radically alter his expertise as a Muslim in the USA.

He says he misplaced pals, confronted bullying, and have become a goal of overtly racist feedback. As soon as whereas taking part in in a basketball recreation, a participant from the alternative staff known as him “a raghead terrorist Arab”, Sheikh informed Al Jazeera. The referee, he says, heard the remark however did nothing.

Then, a 12 months after the assaults, whereas on a household journey to Washington, DC, his mom, who wears a hijab, was accosted by a person who known as her a terrorist and requested her why she was carrying “that on her head”.

Sheikh says he and his household have an extended record of such incidents – and they aren’t the one ones. “Quite a bit has been misplaced since 9/11,” he mentioned. “A variety of wars have been perpetuated and a whole lot of damaging affect has been made.”

Folks in entrance of New York’s St Patrick’s Cathedral react with horror as they appear down Fifth Ave after planes crashed into the World Commerce Middle towers [File: Marty Lederhandler/AP Photo]

Elevated surveillance

Within the quick aftermath of 9/11, hate crimes in opposition to Muslims within the US spiked, going from 28 such incidents nationwide in 2000 to 481 in 2001, in accordance with FBI statistics. Anti-Muslim hate crimes have remained excessive ever since, with the FBI recording 219 incidents in 2019.

“After 9/11 hate and discrimination was amplified,” mentioned Sumayyah Waheed, a coverage guide working with Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group primarily based in Washington, DC.

“Abruptly, day-to-day life for American Muslims turned a topic for broad public consumption, their religion was radicalised, and all communities confronted intense scrutiny from American society like by no means earlier than.”

After the assaults on the Twin Towers in New York Metropolis and on the Pentagon, which killed almost 3,000 individuals, the US authorities swiftly stepped up safety at airports and authorities buildings.

Then, simply 45 days later, Congress handed the Patriot Act, a legislation that made it simpler for US legislation enforcement companies to trace the actions in addition to monitor the web and cellphone communications of Individuals suspected of terrorism.

Though key components of the laws expired in March 2020, civil rights organisations say it left an enduring affect on Muslim Individuals, who had been disproportionately focused. The teams have argued in courtroom that the legislation violated Individuals’ civil and constitutional rights.

Muslim Individuals say governmental spying and scrutiny left them feeling distrustful of members of their very own communities [Jessie Wardarski/AP Photo]

In 2003, the administration of then-President George W Bush created the so-called “Watchlist”, also called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). In 2016, it included the names of some 5,000 US residents and everlasting residents out of roughly a million individuals on the record, in accordance with the FBI.

Muslim American civil rights teams sued the US authorities, arguing it’s unconstitutional. An appeals courtroom dominated in opposition to them in March, nevertheless, permitting the TSDB system to proceed to function in the identical manner.

“Instantly after 9/11 all Muslims residing within the US had been positioned beneath the prism of being a risk to nationwide safety,” mentioned Robert McCaw, director of the federal government affairs division on the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“The locations of worship, civil societies, pupil teams, and even companies had been surveilled by the federal authorities,” McCaw informed Al Jazeera. The FBI additionally deployed hundreds of informants, McCaw mentioned, eroding the belief individuals had in one another – and of their authorities.

“To today, American Muslims second guess themselves as as to if they’re being spied on by the federal government,” he mentioned.

Psychological well being toll

Faris Ibrahim, 28, an writer and host of the podcast The Faris of Them All that usually options Muslim American friends, mentioned after 9/11 he remembers faculty pals treating him otherwise and academics asking him “inappropriate” questions on his mother and father’ faith and political views.

Faris Ibrahim is the writer of the guide Breath of the Pearl Diver and host of the podcast The Faris of Them All [Courtesy of Faris Ibrahim]

“There was this concept that Muslims have this hidden agenda, this suspicion that Muslims weren’t on the identical web page as all people else,” Ibrahim informed Al Jazeera. “That we had been saying issues outwardly however saying one thing completely different in our mosques, and we needed to be spied on.”

Waheed at Muslim Advocates says the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment after the assaults fuelled nativist, white nationalist teams within the nation.

She mentioned it additionally paved the best way for the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to dam all Muslims from coming into the US and through his time workplace handed three journey ban iterations that targeted on a number of Muslim-majority nations.

Trump additionally infamously mentioned he noticed Muslim Individuals in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 assaults, a declare that has since been broadly debunked.

Waheed famous that a rise in violence in opposition to Muslims was documented in 2015 and 2016, even surpassing the speed after the 9/11 assaults. “That’s not an accident,” she mentioned, explaining that the spikes coincided with Trump’s presidential marketing campaign. “His anti-Muslim politics led to actual violence and hate in the direction of Muslims.”

Residing beneath the burden of legislation enforcement scrutiny and on a regular basis acts of discrimination for the previous 20 years has enacted a heavy toll on the psychological well being of Muslim Individuals, consultants say.

In response to a research revealed in July in Jama Psychiatry, almost eight p.c of Muslim respondents mentioned that they had tried suicide throughout their lifetime, in contrast with 6 p.c of Catholics, 5 p.c of Protestants and three.6 p.c of Jews.

“After we examine how Muslim communities are doing in comparison with different communities – together with different marginalised communities – the psychological well being ranges have taken a success,” mentioned Rania Awaad, a medical affiliate professor of psychiatry at Stanford College and a researcher on the research.

“What the literature is exhibiting is racial and non secular discrimination in addition to Islamophobia is unquestionably an element,” Awaad informed Al Jazeera.

‘Similar to all people else’

The US Census doesn’t acquire info on faith, however the Pew Analysis Middle present in a 2018 research that roughly 3.45 million Muslims lived within the US, making up a bit greater than 1 p.c of the overall inhabitants.

In the meantime, one other Pew survey in 2019 mentioned 82 p.c of Individuals believed that Muslims are topic to at the least some discrimination within the US, whereas 56 p.c mentioned Muslims are discriminated in opposition to “quite a bit”.

Asad Butt is host of the podcast ‘King of the World’, a seven-part collection a couple of Muslim American teenager coming of age in post-9/11 US [Courtesy of Asad Butt]

Asad Butt, 41, the founding father of a media firm and a podcast host within the Boston space, mentioned he has devoted his profession to addressing Muslim-American points and making an attempt to “construct bridges” with mainstream American society.


He recalled how proper after the 9/11 assaults, his father, who immigrated from Pakistan within the Seventies, put an American flag outdoors their home, hoping it could defend them from potential assaults.

“All of us who had been Muslims within the nation on the time had a goal on our backs and we had been vilified,” Butt informed Al Jazeera, including that Muslim Individuals have suffered enormously from “small acts” of Islamophobia and racism, in addition to authorities spying, over the previous 20 years.

“There’s this concept that we aren’t as American as the following individual and we have now to repeatedly show that we’re as American as our neighbours,” Butt mentioned. “When the reality is, we’re similar to all people else.”