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How much and in what ways has 9/11 influenced public perceptions and the self perceptions of Muslim communities in Western Europe and the United States?

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Introduction

How much and in what ways has 9/11 influenced public perceptions and the self perceptions of Muslim communities in Western Europe and the United States? The term '9/11' refers to the series of suicide attacks which took place in the USA on September 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes, crashing two of them into the World Trade Centre in New York, one into the Pentagon while the fourth crashed into a field after passengers tried to retake control. The nineteen Hijackers were killed as well as over three thousand people, mostly civilians. The hijackers were followers of Osama Bin Laden, an exponent of a particularly militant sect of Islam. Following the 9/11 attacks, there was a knee jerk backlash against Muslims in the West. Although many Muslims had experienced suspicion, this worsened after the 9/11 outrage and 'living together' (Ramadan, 2004, p71) became more problematic. There became a perceived 'Islamic threat' (Ramadan, 2004, p84). Women were attacked for wearing the jihad, people were forbidden to board planes and all Muslims were viewed as potential terrorists. The West's 'war on terror' policy has led to thousands of people being detained without charge as well as causing delays in Muslim immigration. The civil liberties of thousands of Muslims have been compromised in the name of security. This has obviously caused fear and tension among Muslim communities in the West making them feel in 'a state of siege' (Ramadan, 2004, p173). ...read more.

Middle

is inclusive of long held traditions of many religions including Christianity and Judaism. The series of Cair posters (Islam in the West, 2007, fig 3.2) shows the media efforts in USA to show Muslims in a better light. George Bush made some attempt after 9/11 to counteract these views both with statements disassociating the American Muslim population from the terrorists and also by publicly visiting a mosque. The media has played a large part in enforcing some of the negative views of Muslim's in western societies. Some headlines are aggressive, highlighting possible tensions and fuelling the 'Islamaphobia' that appears to have developed since 9/11. Following the atrocities, we have seen more headlines such as 'Extreme youth: the Muslims who would swap British Law for Sharia' (The Times, 29 January 2007) which seek to place British Law and Sharia Law as polar opposites and to highlight the 'extreme' intention of the Muslim youth. It clearly discriminates against Muslims and infers that young Muslims have no intention of integrating into the British way of life. It insinuates that all Muslim 'youth' are fundamentalists who are against modern western culture. This type of reporting can only add to the Western Muslim's feeling of 'otherness' which Tariq Ramadan calls the 'identity crisis' (Ramadan in Herbert (ed), 2007a, Track 1) so causing a division rather than creating a melting pot of cultures within one new multicultural society. ...read more.

Conclusion

This has obviously affected the self-perceptions of Muslim Communities who have had to counter the adverse publicity for their religion and culture whilst living side by side with what may have become hostile communities. There has been, in some sectors more vocalisation of an anti-Islam feeling across both Europe and the USA since the tragedy of 9/11. The media in particular has stirred up anti-Islam feeling and continues to associate Muslims with violence rather than providing more positive images. Public opinion, often fuelled by media attention has had a considerable affect on Muslim communities in Western societies. The establishment of Schools and mosques in the West has been the matter of much public debate particularly because it signifies a permanence. This frightens many westerners as some of the bombers had been brought up and lived as part of Western societies. In Britain this has led to animosity and even violence. Much of this has been fuelled by the media and modern forms of communication such as the internet. However, the internet has also seen the emergence of what Cesari describes as the 'imagined' Western community which has enabled Muslims to maintain contact on a World wide scale. This again is a two-edged sword, again because many westerners fear that this may encourage terrorist organisations. However, there has also been co-operation between sections of society for example in the case of the expansion of the East London Mosque (Islam in the West, 2007, p142). This kind of co-operation is needed if both sides are to come together to live side by side without fear. ...read more.

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