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Groups Work to Stop Hate Crimes, Islamophobia 20 Years After 9/11


Friday, September 10, 2021   

PORTLAND, Maine -- As the nation marks the 20-year anniversary of the Sep. 11 attacks, groups said stopping hate crimes and bigotry toward Muslim Americans is a priority.

The latest data from the FBI showed hate crimes at their highest level in 12 years, more than 60% because of race, ethnicity or ancestry.

Sumayyah Waheed, policy consultant for the civil rights group Muslim Advocates, noted hate crimes against Muslim Americans are historically undercounted. She pointed out there can be barriers to reporting, ranging from language barriers to fear of authorities because of the discrimination and surveillance many folks have faced, including from law enforcement.

"American Muslims have faced discrimination and hate and targeting by the government since well before 9/11, particularly the Black American Muslim community, and that that just elevated with 9/11," Waheed explained. "And so we're continuing to feel those impacts today."

More than 3,000 people died in the Sep. 11 attacks and rescue efforts. Mainers are holding events to commemorate the lives of those who died across the state, including in Portland, Monmouth and Topsham.

Waheed noted a big spike in hate crimes against Muslim Americans came with Donald Trump's so-called "Muslim ban" in 2017. She added social media plays a big role in proliferating hate against Muslim Americans, and argued tech companies have a responsibility to crack down. She hopes lawmakers will pass legislation to incentivize companies to take bigotry and hate seriously.

"We need more congressional oversight to force the hand of social media companies that right now just don't have the incentive to take that step to protect marginalized communities on their platforms," Waheed asserted. "And these are the kinds of incidents and trends that actually really endanger young people in particular who are on social media."

The Family and Youth Institute created an online toolkit to help parents and educators navigate challenging conversations about 9/11 and Islamophobia with young people. It includes information on how to create a safe space for Muslim students, counter bias and better understand Muslim youths.

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