Masaryk university faculty of education

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Department of English Language and Literature

The Reaction of the American Muslim Community

to the Terrorist Attacks of 9/11

Diploma Thesis

Brno 2013

Supervisor: Written by:

Michael George, M.A. Bc. Luboš Medek


Prohlašuji, že jsem závěrečnou diplomovou práci vypracoval samostatně, s využitím pouze citovaných literárních pramenů, dalších informací a zdrojů v souladu s Disciplinárním řádem pro studenty Pedagogické fakulty Masarykovy univerzity a se zákonem č. 121/2000Sb., o právu autorském, o právech souvisejících s právem autorským a o změně některých zákonů (autorský zákon), ve znění pozdějších předpisů.


V Brně dne 10. prosince 2013 Luboš Medek


I would like to thank to my supervisor, Michael George, M.A., for his time, kindness and patience.


Contents 4

1.Introduction 5

2.Historical/Cultural Background 7

2.1What is Islam? 7

2.2The Face of Islam in the Western Context 10

3.Muslim Community in the United States of America 25

3.1Muslims in America: A Brief History 26

3.2Institution Building 35

3.3Muslim Americans at the Turn of the 21st Century 37

4.The Attacks of September 11 39

4.1Who did it? How? And why? 40

4.2The Immediate Response of American Muslim Community to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks 42

4.3How the 9/11 Attacks have Changed the Perception of Islam in the USA and the World 45

5.What is Islam after all? 51

6.Conclusion 53

Résumé 55

Resumé 56

Bibliography 57

Audio-visual sources 57

Electronic sources 58

Appendices 60

  1. Introduction

The first chapter provides an overview of how the relationship between Islam and the West has been evolving. The events of 11th September 2001 might create an impression that the conflict between the Islamic world and the West is a recent phenomenon. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. The relationship between the two worlds is much richer and more profoundly intertwined than it may seem possible. From its birth, the Islamic faith has been a close neighbour of Christianity, a religion sharing the same roots, worshiping the same god. Much more than that, Islamic army as well as its vast knowledge and scholarship conquered the world. It is thanks to the Muslim genius that the European enlightenment could build on ancient philosophies and reason. After they conquered Spain, Muslims through translations and co-operation with Christians and Jews settled roots for the Renaissance centuries before it began in Italy. They connected the worlds of wisdom stretching from China and India to Morocco and Spain. But they, together with their Christian counterparts, also set roots to prejudice and misunderstanding. The distorted image of the two religions would define their relationship during the Middle Ages and ever since. The psychology has changed during the infamous period of history known as the Crusades provoked by a mad action in the Holy Land. From the historical point of view, it was an exception, yet for the Christians it proved the rule. The sense of alienation deepened during the campaigns of the Ottoman Empire threatening the very heart of Europe. The vicious circle of attack and revenge started to turn and reached the highest speed after the World War One when the land of the fallen Ottoman Empire was grabbed by the colonial superpowers that were in commercial and political sense exchanged by the United States of America after the World War Two when the Muslim nations of the Middle East attained formal independence.

Given how much has been written and said about the age-long conflict between the Western and Islamic civilizations, the least probable place for the Muslims to flourish would seem to be the United States of America. Nevertheless, the Muslim community in America is well established and integrated. Although there are some instances of bias and prejudice against Islam, Muslims there are affluent. The Muslim presence on the American soil has not sprung up out of nowhere, though, it has its historical and cultural causes and effects. It may sound surprising that Muslim explorers set sail to reach America from Spain and Morocco half a millennium before Christopher Columbus did in 1492. They were even members of the Columbus crew itself, in part as captives or as Christian converts. Yet, they never came to America in any substantial numbers. Great many of Muslims would arrive later on from West Africa as captives in the Atlantic slave trade. Although it is very difficult for the shier absence of evidence to estimate their number, it is most likely that between 1600 and 1800 they counted in millions. Thanks to their education and level of literacy, they were considered more civilized and intelligent than their non-Muslim counterparts. This in turn supported the abolitionist efforts to undermine the foundations of slavery. The Islamic heritage the African Muslims was consequently lost on the American soil, however, some of them tried to keep their faith and even pass it to their progeny. However, it was later revived between the world wars by the black activists who claimed that Islam was the original religion of the black slaves in opposition to Christianity which was a religion for the white people. Islam has become a tool of black supremacy in America during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It has never been realized as a genuine way of Islam, though. A true turning point in the story of Islam in the United States occurred in the waves of immigration from the Muslim countries in the Middle East and South Asia. The decades after the end of the World War Two have been not only a period of great influx of Muslims in America, but it has also been a time of community and organization building.

American Muslims of the late twentieth century were a growing yet not large minority with not many high-profile events. They were sometimes victims of bias and prejudice, but not to a large extent. So much could be said about Muslims in America before the terrorist attack occurred on 11th September, 2001. By no means are the terrorist attacks a defining moment of the character of the community in the American society nor of the Muslim population as a whole, yet it signifies certain point on the way. It is a crossroad where the next direction of the between the West and Islam is being decided. On one hand, it provoked much more hatred and bias against Muslims in America as well as all over the world, but on the other hand it offers a platform for learning and understanding. It is upon us which way we want to go.

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