Anti-Muslim Discrimination in Post 9/11 America

By | Nov 16, 2011
2011 March-April, World

Americans with Muslim names have a harder time finding a job

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, American Muslims have experienced increased job discrimination since 2001. Complaints alleging anti-Muslim bias in the workplace numbered nearly 800 for the year ending September 30, 2010, up about 20 percent from 2008 and showing a nearly 60 percent spike from 2005. In fact, Muslims account for just over 21 percent of religious discrimination cases despite comprising less than one percent of the population.

While discrimination on the basis of religion was outlawed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a 2004 study by the non-profit Discrimination Research Center shows that Muslim names have become a liability for job-seekers. Six thousand similar, fictitious resumes were sent to California employment firms with names “identifiable” as white, Latino, African American, Asian American and Arab American. The name Heidi McKenzie received the highest positive response rate, 36.7 percent, and Abdul-Aziz Mansour, the lowest, 23 percent.

According to Biplab Pal, an Indian-American engineer who has served as a hiring manager for American engineering firms, it has become tougher for educated minorities, including Muslims and Indian and Bangladeshi Hindus who look like Muslims, to obtain white-collar jobs in the U.S. “Many minority engineers are changing their names to American-sounding Christian names to get a job,” says Pal.


Islamophobia has replaced the fear of communism

Since September 11, the balance between security issues and civil liberties in the United States has tilted toward security and fighting terrorism. “Muslim terrorist” has replaced “communist” and echoes of McCarthy can be heard. Popular conservative websites such as WorldNetDaily and scholars such as M. Stanton Evans, author of Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies, argue that McCarthy was on the right track and that liberals, who once hindered the struggle against communists, now hinder the fight against terrorism.

On the flip side are those who believe that the government is using methods comparable to those used in the 1940s and 1950s. Its “modus operandi” was to create lists of proscribed organizations, then investigate, prosecute and fire individuals based on their affiliations with these proscribed groups,” says David D. Cole, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University Law School. “It has been revived in the post-9/11 era. The suspect associations have changed. People don’t care if you get the Communist Party Worker’s magazine but they would care if you get the Hamas newspaper.”

The equation of Islam with terrorism troubles Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC. “Unless we become aware of the problem and look at historical comparisons with the Jewish community 50 years ago, the stereotypes won’t go away,” he says. He points to the congressional hearings that are underway to “investigate radical Islam.” “It’s a good idea to talk about these issues, but I am concerned it will become a media circus,” he says. “That’s what happened to the Jewish community half a century ago.”

Nadine Epstein


Click here to read an investigation into discrimination against Jews who worked for the U.S. Army Corps at Fort Monmouth, NJ in the wake of Julius Rosenberg’s arrest.


This project was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism

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