Yakima Muslims Wary in Post-9/11 Climate

September 10, 2006

Source: Yakima Herald Republic


On September 10, 2006 the Yakima Herald Republic reported, "When a Yakima Herald-Republic reporter approached a group of local Muslims to ask them how the community has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, their actions said it all.

Realizing they might be quoted in the newspaper, they recoiled at having their names published.

One grabbed the reporter's notebook and scribbled out his name and the names of the other Muslims interviewed.

'You can talk about us generally, but no personal names,' he said.

Another Muslim said he feared that their words could be used against them under the U.S. Patriot Act.

Experts say such incidents reflect fears that have developed among American Muslims since the 9/11 attacks.

Ellie Pierce, senior researcher for The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, said the fear comes from subtle and not-so-subtle forms of bias � everything from local zoning disputes when establishing places of worship to acts of vandalism and hate crimes.

Locally, members of the Islamic Center of Yakima had to deal with several cases of vandalism in 2004.

'I think it may be indicative of the post-9/11 climate, given some of the very real issues that Muslims now face in America,' Pierce said.

Omar Albastami, a Muslim and practicing physician in Yakima, said such fear has resulted in some Muslims becoming more self-conscious and less willing to go out in public, scared that political or religious issues could arise.

'They are afraid that they won't be treated fairly or understood,' he said. 'They are afraid because they think they are under suspicion.'

But while some are reluctant to speak, other groups are more vocal and have become more politically active in an effort to debunk myths and to better inform people about Islam.

Omid Safi, an Islamic studies professor at the University of North Carolina, said Muslims realize religion is no longer a nonpolitical issue.

'Our very existence in this county is a political statement,' he said. 'So people in some ways are going on five constant years of educating others, explaining, formulating identities.'"