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Being and Belonging

Muslims in the United States since 9/11

Katherine Pratt Ewing

Publication Year: 2008

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, instantly transformed many ordinary Muslim and Arab Americans into suspected terrorists. In the weeks and months following the attacks, Muslims in the United States faced a frighteningly altered social climate consisting of heightened surveillance, interrogation, and harassment. In the long run, however, the backlash has been more complicated. In Being and Belonging, Katherine Pratt Ewing leads a group of anthropologists, sociologists, and cultural studies experts in exploring how the events of September 11th have affected the quest for belonging and identity among Muslims in America—for better and for worse. From Chicago to Detroit to San Francisco, Being and Belonging takes readers on an extensive tour of Muslim America—inside mosques, through high school hallways, and along inner city streets.  Jen’nan Ghazal Read compares the experiences of Arab Muslims and Arab Christians in Houston and finds that the events of 9/11 created a “cultural wedge” dividing Arab Americans along religious lines. While Arab Christians highlighted their religious affiliation as a means of distancing themselves from the perceived terrorist sympathies of Islam, Muslims quickly found that their religious affiliation served as a barrier, rather than a bridge, to social and political integration. Katherine Pratt Ewing and Marguerite Hoyler document the way South Asian Muslim youth in Raleigh, North Carolina, actively contested the prevailing notion that one cannot be both Muslim and American by asserting their religious identities more powerfully than they might have before the terrorist acts, while still identifying themselves as fully American. Sally Howell and Amaney Jamal distinguish between national and local responses to terrorism. In striking contrast to the erosion of civil rights, ethnic profiling, and surveillance set into motion by the federal government, well-established Muslim community leaders in Detroit used their influence in law enforcement, media, and social services to empower the community and protect civil rights. Craig Joseph and Barnaby Riedel analyze how an Islamic private school in Chicago responded to both September 11 and the increasing ethnic diversity of its student body by adopting a secular character education program to instruct children in universal values rather than religious doctrine. In a series of poignant interviews, the school’s students articulate a clear understanding that while 9/11 left deep wounds on their community, it also created a valuable opportunity to teach the nation about Islam. The rich ethnographies in this volume link 9/11 and its effects to the experiences of a group that was struggling to be included in the American mainstream long before that fateful day. Many Muslim communities never had a chance to tell their stories after September 11. In Being and Belonging, they get that chance.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-ii


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pp. iii-iv

About the Authors

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pp. vii-viii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-11

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, had a dramatic, immediate effect on Muslims in the United States. Both the magnitude of the destruction within the borders of the United States and the ensuing war on terror have brought the issue of Muslims...

Part 1. The Backlash and Its Effects

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pp. 13-14

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2. Citizenship, Dissent, Empire: South Asian Muslim Immigrant Youth

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pp. 15-46

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, questions of citizenship, racialization, and religious and national identities have taken on new, urgent meanings for Muslims living in the United States. South Asian Muslim youth, in particular, are coming of age at a moment when their religious and national affiliations are politically charged issues. This chapter...

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3. Detroit Exceptionalism and the Limits of Political Incorporation

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pp. 47-79

National and international media often turn their attention to Detroit when exploring connections between the United States and the Middle East. So too do federal authorities. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the special relationship between Arab Detroit, the media, and law...

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4. Being Muslim and American: South Asian Muslim Youth and the War on Terror

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pp. 80-103

In this chapter, we consider some of the responses of Muslim youth growing up in the United States amidst the atmosphere of suspicion associated with the war on terror. We focus on youth from middle class families of South Asian background living in the Raleigh-Durham...

Part 2. The Changing Shape of Communities and Institutions

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pp. 105-106

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5. Multiple Identities Among Arab Americans: A TAle of Two Congregations

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pp. 107-127

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, introduced a new era in our society, one that will likely have long-term effects on Americans of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Since the attacks, Arab and Muslim communities in the United States have been especially...

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6. Overstressing Islam: Bridgeview's Muslim Community Since 9/11

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pp. 128-155

Even before 9/11, a debate had simmered for some time in the United States about the ability and willingness of Muslims to become full participants in American society and the compatibility of Islam with democracy and modernity. The debate was sometimes framed as...

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7. Islamic Schools, Assimilation, and the Concept of Muslim American Character

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pp. 156-177

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, intensified a concern many Americans have long had concerning its Muslim residents and communities. One of the forms this concern has taken is a heightened scrutiny of Muslim institutions and practices that might foster attitudes incompatible with the goal of integrating Muslims fully into...

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8. Faith in the Form: Islamic Home Financing and "American" Islamic Law

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pp. 178-199

A casual observer of Muslim American social life after September 11, 2001, might assume that visible practices that mark someone as Muslim—the headscarf is perhaps the most commented upon example—would decline in prevalence if Muslims newly feared being...

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Epilogue: On Discipline and Inclusion

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pp. 200-206

It is good that this volume appears at a temporal remove from the events of September 11, 2001. The United States’ reaction to the 9/11 attacks has included the invasion and military occupation of two (formerly) sovereign nation-states, a domestic security crackdown, new laws to justify the crackdown, and a reorganization of the...


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pp. 207-215

E-ISBN-13: 9781610441926
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871543288

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2008