Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11

In the beginning of the tragedy of 9/11, many societal shifts took place, as much of the US mourned the loss of thousands of lives. However, the community would not mourn collectively, as a divide was quickly forming. Behind the Backlash, Muslim Americans After 9/11, examines the unusually swift and harsh judgment of Muslim Americans as they became the sole scapegoats for the largest terrorist attack in world history.

Lori Peek seeks to examines how previously held stereotypes, prejudice, stigmas  and blatant ignorance against the Islamic religion and its peaceful followers led to the virtually instantaneous abuse suffered by Muslim Americans at the hands of said ‘patriotic’ Americans. Thus, though much of the novels focus is the Muslim experience post 9/11, Peek also seeks to uncover the unfortunate reality they had been suffering for decades prior.

In the dark days post 9/11, the very best and very worst of mankind were practiced and observed. There is the common outpour of support and goodwill that often follows such catastrophes. Allen Barton, Peek shares, writes about this concept of a momentarily changed “altruistic community” – one in which human suffering manifests itself positively, bringing forth selflessness – where a sense of a shared ‘larger purpose’ temporarily overrides individual differences and self-interests.

Lori Peek has been awarded in her scholarship, teaching, and service in broader hazards and disaster in her field of Sociology. Her key works include the novel, Children of Katrina, and Life in the Katrina Diaspora. Peek admits in her introduction that she, too, was previously uneducated on beliefs and practices of those following Islam.

Peek makes clear that Islam is historically misunderstood and misrepresented by both the public and, perhaps more disconcertingly, officials and high-ranking persons. To better understand the correlation of existent prejudice and its swift backlash, Peek seeks to examine the subjective experience of Muslim Americans, interviewing 140 men and women.

Peek explains the discrepancy of the number of women (66%) and men (34%) informants due to her “position as a female researcher,”  prohibiting her participation in “spaces associated with Islam [which] are segregated by gender.” The research evolves from group, to individual sessions, to long-term telephone and email exchanges – allowing for an in-depth look into complex issues not otherwise accessible through short-term relationships or simple survey methods.

Backlash, is the crux of the novel, illustrating the different types of abuse suffered, with “varying degrees of intensity, ranging from avoidance to verbal harassment to profiling to discriminatory exclusion to physical attack.” Peek notes that those most susceptible were persons physically identifiable as Muslim.

Repercussions and Adaptations, serves to address how Muslims acclimate to their sudden exclusion. In turn, creating a deeper inclusion within the community itself. Most importantly, an increase of self-identification with the Islamic religion, strengthening loyalty and dependence on the community for a deep purpose and meaning. Individuals focused “more intently on religious tradition” with a sense of obligation to defend their religion and religious identity.

Chapters held many of the same themetic anectodes. Would like to have learned therefore their more profounde effect on the psyche of the Muslim American moving forward. As well as like to have learned about the more violent repercussions and they’re more profound affect, rather than short-term.

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