September 11th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

Since 9/11, U.S. policy enforces Islamophobia

Opinion by Nathan Lean, special to CNN

(CNN) - The attacks of September 11, 2001, were unthinkable, and are rightfully memorialized with the somber reflection that marks other tragedies of our nation’s past.

From the Oval Office that Tuesday evening 12 years ago, President George W. Bush addressed the stricken nation with a message of hope.

“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America,” he said. “This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace.”

Sadly, though, out of that dark hour came more darkness.

Throughout the past 12 years, government agencies and local law enforcement have often turned inward, eroding the liberties of ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

In the name of defending national security, they’ve fractured relationships with American Muslim communities and undermined the foundations of freedom on which this land was built.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has not only manifested itself through mosque arsons, assaults, murders and invariably hostile rhetoric from society’s extreme fringes. It has also become a permanent fixture of the very institutions that should provide safeguards against those things.

A long view of the response to terrorism since 9/11 suggests that Islamophobia — an irrational fear or suspicion of all Muslims and Islam based on the actions of a few — is increasingly legislated and enforced.

The most recent example of this comes from the city that bore the brunt of the 9/11 attacks.

READ MORE: My son died as a first responder on 9/11

Revelations surrounding the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities in Brooklyn and Manhattan show that, without specific evidence of criminal activity, police officers teamed up with the CIA to form a clandestine intelligence program that spied on ordinary Muslim Americans.

The program sent “rakers” into Muslim neighborhoods to observe restaurant owners and shop keepers, deployed “mosque crawlers” into Muslim houses of worship to monitor sermons, and planted undercover agents on a university rafting trip in Buffalo where they took notes on how many times Muslim students prayed each day.

It gets worse.

The NYPD parked a yellow taxicab, bugged with cameras and voice recorders, outside a popular mosque in Brooklyn, hoping to capture Friday prayer-goers mumbling something about terrorism.

They also designated all mosques in the city as terrorist organizations, meaning that anyone who attends worship services is a potential subject for investigation, and they attempted to infiltrate the board of the nonprofit Arab American Association of New York, labeling the group a “terrorism enterprise.”

The six years of surveilling American Muslims led to no arrests or leads, the head of the NYPD's Demographics Unit admitted in court testimony.

The NYPD says its surveillance programs are lawful and orchestrated to keep the city safe from "those who are intent on killing New Yorkers."

The FBI criticized the NYPD spying program, however, saying that it produces a “negative impact” and makes their job harder than ever.

But it was the FBI who, in 2010, paid informant Craig Monteilh more than $11,000 a month to disguise himself as a convert to Islam, infiltrate Southern California mosques, and have sex with Muslim women. The plan was to entrap young Muslims by initiating conversations about “jihad” and terrorism.

In the end, the very people he was spying on reported him to the FBI — the organization that sent him there. Last year, Monteilh expressed his regret for participating in the sting operation, saying, “There is no hunt. It’s fixed.”

The FBI said its program, called "Operation Flex," was "focused on fewer than 25 individuals and was directed at detecting and preventing possible terrorist attacks."

The FBI came under fire again in August of this year as we learned about a covert security program in conjunction with U.S. immigration authorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that the FBI and immigration officials have the authority to blacklist law-abiding Muslim Americans who have applied for citizenship, flagging their applications on the basis of “national security concerns” and sidelining their path to nationality for years on end.

Those applications are primarily docked on the basis of the applicant’s name, their country of origin, or as a result of their travels to countries on a watch list.

The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services says its reviews comply with immigration laws.

READ MORE: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Anti-Muslim prejudice is institutionalized at the state level, as well.

Over the past two years, lawmakers in 32 legislatures across the country have targeted Muslims by moving to ban Islamic law, or “Shariah.” Seven states (most recently North Carolina) have signed the proposed ban into law, despite the inability of legislators to name a single specific case in which a court ruling based on Shariah law was allowed to stand.

Additionally, mosque construction projects in states like Oklahoma, Tennessee, California and Minnesota have faced backlash from local lawmakers who, failing to thwart their construction by advancing arguments about Shariah or the supposed threat of radicals, resorted to pretenses like traffic patterns, zoning regulations, parking restrictions and noise ordinances to block the building permits.

This cannot be our response to tragedy.

We’ve lost our way, and the path that we are traveling down today is hardly representative of the sacred foundations that our founding fathers envisioned.

Surely we can, and we must, remain vigilant in our effort to combat those who threaten us, but we cannot be so overly zealous in our aim to root out potential perpetrators that we abandon our national values and strip our fellow citizens of their unalienable and constitutionally protected rights.

That doesn’t make us stronger; it makes us weaker, and more vulnerable.

Nathan Lean is the editor-in-chief of Aslan Media and the author of four books about the Middle East, including "The Islamophobia Industry." Follow him on Twitter at @nathanlean.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Discrimination • Islam • Muslim • Opinion • Sharia

soundoff (372 Responses)
  1. Lionly Lamb

    Dr. William Courtney and the dietary benefits of raw cannabis Pt. 1


    September 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Dr. William Courtney and the dietary benefits of raw cannabis Pt. 2


      September 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  2. Lionly Lamb

    Dr. William L. Courtney Raw Cannabis Benefits…


    September 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  3. Lionly Lamb


    September 12, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  4. Lionly Lamb


    September 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      for gosh sakes, LL, smoke a joint and chill the fvck out

      September 13, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  5. Honey Badger Don't Care

    I'm a member of a radical, militant faction of Jainism. All non-believers will be ignored!!

    September 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Lionly Lamb

    Sharia courts conquer UK…


    September 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

      We all know you hate Muslims... I like you better when you rant on about the virtues of the ganja...

      September 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Marijuana: Is It Biblical? Part 2 of 2 Is Cannabis a Sin?


        September 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Marijuana: Is It Biblical? Part 1 of 2 Is Cannabis a Sin?


        September 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

    "Zombies for Jesus" have been going door to door with pamphlets. Idiots.

    September 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

    Expired bloggers, do not fear the living. We have arrived.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      'E's passed on! This blogger is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!
      'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the keyboard, 'e'd be pushing up the daisies!
      'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
      'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!


      September 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

        No I am just stunned. Beautiful plumage!

        September 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • Knights Who Say...

        What was that about hats again?

        September 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  9. Apple Bush

    Great servitude will pour forth from the orifices exposed by the gaping wounds left by bombs and cigarette lighters.

    This is why the nose to the statue was bent and everyone mistakenly thought it had been broken.

    That man will go to hell and so will the atheists if they don’t smell the sacrament of God in the wash basin of sacrifice. Be not afraid of the foul stench.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  10. Shen

    It is so clear for all that Jesus meant to tell the world is in the Bible. Read it and feel His glory!

    September 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

      as clear as mud...

      September 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Shen

        Congrats, I see you have won.

        September 12, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Woe betide those who reject (INSERT HOLY BOOK) as the word of (INSERT DEITY) for they shall never know the glory that is (INSERT AFTERLIFE).

      September 12, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
      • Shen

        Doc, you miss the point. You see, it is in the book! It is a miracle!

        September 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          And have you explored any other Holy Books?
          They all claim to be "The Truth", just like The Bible.
          How can you dismiss the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Quran, Sunnah, Nahjul Balagha, Avesta, Vedas, Upanisahds, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Tantras, Sutras, Vachanas, Adi Granth, Purvas, Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; Anupreksa; Samadhishataka of Pujyapada; Tattvarthasutra of Umasvati, Tattvarthasutra, Pali Tripitaka, Jataka,, Visuddimagga, Tripitaka, Lotus Sutra, Garland Sutra, Analects; the Great Learning; the Doctrine of the Mean; the Mencius, Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, K-oki, Ofudesaki, Mikagura-uta, Michi-no-Shiori, Johrei, Goseigen, Netarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Chun Boo Kyung, Kitab-i-Iqan, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Book of Mormon, Dianetics, or Revelation X?

          September 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
        • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

          LET's Religiosity Law #3 – If you habitually spout off verses from your "holy" book to make whatever inane point you're trying to make, and not once does it occur to you to question whether your book is accurate in the first place, then you are definitely mentally retarded. (See Law #4 & #5)

          September 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm |

          Well you two are just plain mean. Doc and Otter. You need to get right with the good Lord if you want to spend eternity in paradise. You can throw all those fancy names at me all day, but only Jesus is Divine and a good author.

          September 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Attention

      Don't feed the animials.

      September 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • Shen

        It is clear from the historical documentation that man was given dominion over Otters.

        September 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Johnny

      I've read the bible and don't find it to be the least bit convincing. IN fact I think the entire New Testament is a load of crap.

      September 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  11. Lionly Lamb

    Michael Coren & Robert Spencer The Fight Against Radical Islam


    September 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  12. Chad

    I'm back and looking forward to some exiting exegesis. 🙂

    September 12, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I am planning to stay here, thanks.

      September 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

      Exegesis: a synonym of oxymoron... or another way of saying "pointless endeavor"

      September 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
      • Chad

        @Sea Otter

        What investigation of the bible have you done that leads you to that conclusion?

        September 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Exegesis is not stricly limited to The Bible. The term refers to critical analysis of any text.

        September 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
        • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

          Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible

          September 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
        • Chad

          @Sea Otter – "Exegesis: a synonym of oxymoron... or another way of saying "pointless endeavor"
          @Chad – "What investigation of the bible have you done that leads you to that conclusion?
          @Doc Vestibule – "Exegesis is not stricly limited to The Bible.

          ===> Nice dodge, Doc Vestibule. 🙂

          September 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
        • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

          I am a walking dictionary... but I looked it up to make sure... ~LET

          September 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
        • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

          "Nice dodge, Doc Vestibule." methinks you believe Doc and I are the same person... but we are not.

          September 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
      • Joey

        Chad I rely on your investigation because I am too busy to do much for myself, and all you have done is convince me that the Bible is not true. Every post you make just makes that even more clear.

        September 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

      Is it exciting or is it leaving? I don't get it. How COULD it be exciting?

      September 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  13. Apple Bush

    If I were to declare that I were a Christian or Muslim or whatever, I would appear stupid.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Do you think people who declare their faith don't know the world sees them that way?

      September 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
      • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

        SNAP! ...another troll-trap springs closed upon the unwary...

        September 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm |


    September 12, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Allegiance)

      Oh crap... now zombies can type...

      September 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  15. Punch a Muslim in the Face Today!

    Remind our Muslim friends that they need to speak up and be heard denouncing Islamic atrocities. Just give 'em a little pop.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Where have I heard that before?


      September 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Kenrick Benjamin

    Pending the United Nations report findings, I think that charges should be filed in the World Court against the persons responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  17. Apple Bush

    Clothes on a clothes line whipping in anger to protest the sharp biting wind of the approaching winter. Then she showed up. She was small, cute, Japanese and holding pom- poms. She seemed to stutter something in Japanese and then began her “dance”.

    That is when the earthquake hit which did not make sense. The pressure on that fault line was not built up enough to expect activity. The Otter won by the way.

    Now I know that believers will be upset by this. They hate pom-poms and cute Japanese girls. Slip Faults never cease to amaze me. I am just glad the judge is all right.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Lionly Lamb

    Radical Islam Documentary…


    September 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    all religion is a cancer of the human race.

    September 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Al

      From my vantage point in the west, the major religions such as Budhism, Hinduism, and Judaism appear that they can be treated with a topical cream. Christianity and Islam on the other hand, require surgery and intense chemo.

      September 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  20. ryerty


    September 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.