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Religious Tolerance logo

Aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack

Attacks on Muslims and others

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bullet " '...the FBI has found little evidence so far that the teams of hijackers received much support here [in the U.S.],' sources said." 9

bullet " 'There seems to be no U.S. mastermind,' one official said." 9

bullet "These shameful acts against men, women and children targeted because of their religious beliefs, ethnicity or national origin violate basic principles of human rights and justice. Misguided violence at the hands of a few dishonors the nation's  legitimate anger and shock over the immense loss of life and destruction from the September 11 attacks in the United States. Since Sept. 11, monitoring groups around the country have received several hundred complaints alleging crimes apparently motivated by bias and hate." Human Rights Watch, news release, 2001-SEP-24

bullet "...those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior." George W. Bush, during a visit to the Islamic Center in Washington DC on 2001-SEP-17

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Looking back to the Oklahoma City bombing, 1995-APR-19:

Many people believe in the concept of collective responsibility: that all persons of a particular group -- whether they be of a particular gender, age, nationality, religion, sexual orientation etc. -- are responsible for any evil deed perpetrated by one individual in the group. Thus when incorrect rumors circulated that Muslims had bombed the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, OK, some people searched for Muslims that they could assault, or for mosques that they could attack. Any Muslim or any mosque was acceptable to satisfy their rage.

Shortly after the bombing, TV and radio newscasters speculated that the terrorist act had the markings of a Middle Eastern perpetrator:

bullet Washington-based journalist Steven Emerson allegedly said on a national news program that the bombing "...was done with the intent of inflicting as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait."


One day after the bombing, Bob Grant of the Bob Grant Show responded to a caller who suggested that there was no evidence that the terrorists were Muslim. Grant allegedly commented:

" the Oklahoma case...the indications are that those people who did it were some Muslim terrorists. But a skunk like you. ...What I'd like to do is put you up against the wall with the rest of them, and mow you down along with them. Execute you with them. Because you obviously have a great hatred for America, otherwise you wouldn't talk the way you talk, you imbecile."

bullet In their coverage of the bombing, the New York Times commented: "Some Middle Eastern groups have held meetings there (Oklahoma), and the city is home to at least three mosques." Mere presence of a conference or mosque in the city was deemed to be suggestive of an involvement in a mass murder.


Even after McVeigh was arrested and the government identified two white males as perpetrators, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer insisted that

"there is still a possibility that there could have been some sort of connection to Middle East terrorism. One law enforcement source tells me that there's a possibility that they (the Caucasian suspects) may have been contracted out as freelancers to go out and rent this truck that was used in the bombing."

A lot of people seemed to agree with this media speculation. Within two days after the Oklahoma City bombing, there were hundreds of recorded instances of harassment and hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs, Iraqis, people who appeared to be Muslims, and Muslim organizations and buildings. Two days after the explosion, Timothy McVeigh was arrested. But the anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and anti- Iraqi attacks continued for weeks. 2 One Muslim woman miscarried after being attacked. Local Muslims later asked to participate in a mass memorial service led by the Governor. They were refused. However, Muslim delegations from other areas of the country were allowed to attend. The service was entirely Judeo-Christian in format.

What reaction did Muslims and their organizations have in the Oklahoma City bombing? Lots:

bullet "...within hours of the explosion, dozens of Muslim organizations around the country issued statements condemning the bombing in the strongest terms possible." 2

bullet The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a nation-wide Muslim group, held a blood drive, and donated $7,500 to disaster relief organizations.

bullet Fifty Holy Land Foundation volunteers flew to Oklahoma City to assist local charities.

bullet Muslims met with the governor and presented him with checks totaling $21,000 for the Victims Relief Fund.

There was minimal coverage in the media of these positive acts.

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The New York & Pentagon bombings, 2001-SEP-11:

Media reporters were initially cautious about laying blame for this tragedy. There was some occasional speculation that American militia groups, Colombian drug barons, or terrorists from the Middle East were involved. But the reporters generally stressed that there was no hard evidence within the first few hours after the bombing which might lead to the identity of the perpetrators. However, many North Americans seem to have believed that Muslims were responsible.

Within 36 hours of the bombing, attacks began on persons and mosques which were totally unrelated to the attacks:

bullet Six bullets shattered windows of a mosque in Irving, TX. $3,000 in damage was caused.

bullet A bag filled with blood and labeled 'Pig's blood' was thrown at the door of a mosque in San Francisco, CA.

bullet Four bricks were thrown through the windows of a Muslim bookstore in Alexandria, VA. Also in Virginia, two mosques reported vandalism.

bullet In Canada, the front doors at mosques in St. Catherines, ON and Montreal, PQ were fire-bombed, with minimal damage.

bullet The British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) reported that there had been many death threats and assaults against Muslims.

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Continuing harassment and attacks:

By 2001-SEP-25, three weeks after the attack, there had been many assaults on Muslims in the U.S. In addition, Sikhs are being targeted because some are being mistaken for Muslims. Hispanic-Americans have been harassed, presumably because of their skin color. One Egyptian Copt was murdered. Even members of the Baha'i Faith have been harassed. It is ironic that Baha'is are themselves viciously persecuted in Iran, and Christian Copts are oppressed in Egypt.

Some examples were:

bullet On the afternoon of Saturday, 2001-SEP-15, a gunman killed the 49 year old owner of a gas station in Mesa, AZ. He was a Sikh. His family believes that he was killed because he "looked Middle Eastern." Additional shots were fired at a Lebanese clerk and at the home of an Afghan family.

bullet On the evening of Saturday, 2001-SEP-15, a gunman killed a Pakistani Muslim store owner in Dallas, TX.

bullet Adel Karas, 48, an Egyptian-American grocer was shot and killed near his International Market store in San Gabriel, CA. He was a Copt -- neither Muslim nor Arab. No money was taken. Police are investigating the murder as a possible hate crime.

bullet A man drove his car through the front entrance of Parma Mosque in Cleveland OH.

bullet Also on Saturday, a Christian of Egyptian origin was shot dead in California.

bullet Near Chicago, IL, there was a march in which about 300 anti-Arab youths waved flags, shouted "USA, USA," and attempted to march on a mosque in Bridgeview, IL -- a suburb southwest of Chicago. Colin Zaremba, 19, said: "I'm proud to be American and I hate Arabs and I always have." Three demonstrators were arrested.

bullet In Chicago, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Arab-American community center. There were no injuries and little damage.

bullet In Huntington, NY, Adam Lang, reportedly a drunken driver, 75, allegedly tried to kill a Pakistani woman with his car. He later followed the woman into a store and threatened to kill her for "destroying my country."

bullet In Gary, IN, a man wearing a mask pumped over 20 bullets from a high-powered assault rifle at a Muslim, Hassan Awdah. He survived. Hassan is a U.S. citizen, born in Yemen.

bullet In Lynnwood, WA, a mosque was vandalized.

bullet In Suffolk County, NY, a man allegedly made anti-Arab threats and pointed a handgun at the employee of a gas station. He was arrested.

bullet In a prison in Washington state, two inmates fought over an anti-Muslim slur.

bullet a gasoline bomb was thrown into the home of a Sikh family in California.

bullet Two mosques were firebombed with Molotov cocktails during the weekend of OCT-20-21. They are located in Burlington and Mississauga, near Toronto ON Canada. Kendrich House, 35, from Oakville ON has allegedly been charged.

Muslims elsewhere in the English speaking world were also targeted:

bullet A 15 year old boy in Ottawa, Canada was attacked by a gang and badly injured.

bullet The Samaj Hindu temple in Hamilton, ON, Canada was firebombed by an arsonist, causing $600,000 in damages. Police speculate that the perpetrator mistook the temple for a mosque.

bullet Firebomb attacks on other Canadian mosques causing minimal damage occurred in Montreal, Quebec, St. Catherines, ON and Oshawa, ON.

bullet In Australia, a school bus containing Muslim children was stoned.

bullet Vandals tried set fire to a Lebanese Christian church, also in Australia.

Five days after the attack, the number of anti-Muslim incidents reported to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reached 210. 8 By SEP-20, 9 days after the attack, Nihad Awad, executive director of the CAIR said: "...The bigoted acts of a small minority are creating an atmosphere of apprehension and fear." Their total of documented first-hand reports of intolerant acts reached 500. The more serious incidences are being investigated by the police as hate crimes.

Countless angry looks, obscene gestures, hate messages in Internet chat rooms and elsewhere on the Internet, bomb and other threats via telephone have targeted Muslim and Arab-Americans.

We will update this essay as more information becomes available.

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Promising signs:

Americans, Canadians, and sympathetic citizens of countries worldwide went to their church, mosque, synagogue, temple or other place of worship. Many had not darkened the door of a place of worship in decades.

A common theme of many services was to show support for the people of New York City and Washington, to pray for the families and friends who have lost loved ones. At St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Chandler, AZ, the congregation also prayed "for Americans who are attacking Arab-Americans." Attendee Martha Rodriguez said that she hopes those involved in the anti-Muslim/anti-Arab backlash realize that prejudice is ignorant and that Arab-Americans had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. 3 At Masjid Jauharatul-Islam mosque in south Phoenix, AZ, the resident imam Abdur-Rahim Shamsiddeen told worshipers they now represent Islam more than ever. he said that the only response to prejudice from others is to live a godly life. "We're going to propagate this religious form like never before. We're going to live more like Muslims." 3 All of this was repeated thousands of times across the U.S. and in other countries.

Some individuals and media reporters are calling for calm, lest the atrocities by the American and Canadian governments during World War II against 120,000 Japanese-Americans and 22,000 Japanese-Canadians be repeated. They were forced to leave their homes and go to internment camps. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said: "We don't want to be excluded or insulated or treated how Japanese-Americans were treated. It's very important right now for Arab-Americans that their loyalty never be brought into question. We are Americans first." 5

President George W. Bush visited a mosque in Washington DC; Prime Minister Jean Chrétien of Canada visited a mosque in Ottawa, ON, Canada; Governor Bob Taft toured the Masjid Saad mosque and school in Toledo, OH. has traditionally rated this web site as the most visited religious site on the Internet. The web site "About Islam and Muslims" took over this position shortly after the terrorist attack. They normally are in the #3 position. Their site provides "accurate information about Islamic Beliefs, history and civilization for Muslims and Non-Muslims" at:  This shows that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in learning about Islam.

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It could have been a lot worse:

The murders, attempted murders, many ineffectual firebombings and shootings at mosques, and countless less serious instances of harassment are certainly serious. However, the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim backlash could have been much worse. The pleas by religious, government and media leaders that Americans to pull together and to avoid stereotyping may well have prevented a much greater display of blind rage.

Journalist Tim Cavanaugh commented: "The pleas for compassion, the chilling reminders that our natures contain darker angels, and the overriding editorial caution may be somewhat overstated, but if repetition serves the purpose of keeping peace in the streets, it all may be worth it. Sometimes the only way to fight a kneejerk reaction is with a kneejerk precaution." 7

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  1. Council on American-Islamic Relations, "Rush to Judgment: A special report on the anti-Muslim stereotyping harassment and hate crimes following the bombing of Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building, April 19, 1995," Diane Publishing, (1995) Out of print.
  2. Aida Wazwaz, "Muslims victims of Oklahoma bombing too," The Minnesota Daily Online, 1997-APR-28. See:
  3. Melanie Coffee, "Crowd protests at Illinois Mosque," Associated Press, 2001-SEP-13, at:
  4. "Shedding the weight of terrorism: Valley residents unite for worship, remembrance," The Arizona Republic, 2001-SEP-15. See:
  5. Deborah Kong, "Arab-Americans fear backlash," Associated Press, at:
  6. "Governor Gary Locke's remarks: Memorial tribute at Puyallup Fair Grounds," 2001-SEP-12. See:
  7. Tim Cavanaugh, "The backlash that almost wasn't," Online Journalism Review, 2001-SEP-14, at:
  8. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has a web site at:
  9. Quotations from The Washington Post, 2001-SEP-29

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Copyright © 2001 to 2013by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-SEP-12
Latest update: 2013-JAN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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