Book Review: Backlash 9-11

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¶ … history of the United States is the 9/11 terror attacks that will forever be remembered by millions of Americans who witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers on the media. 9/11 also remains as a significant sad and shocking day for Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans since it marked the beginning of a new era in which they became backlash victims. During the period when the United States was attempting to absorb the shock of these attacks, Muslim Americans were subjected in an unprecedented wave of backlash violence. The main reason attributed to the increased wave of backlash against Middle East and Muslim Americans is the increased misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the Islamic religion. This widespread misunderstanding of this religion persisted regardless of the outstanding diversity of the Muslim community. As a result of the backlash, Anny Bakalian and Mehdi Bozorgmehr have written a book that provides the first comprehensive analysis of the effect of the post 9/11 attacks on Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans. The book also provides a detailed analysis of the organized response of these people to the post 9/11 attacks.

Book Review:

Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond by Anny Bakalian and Mehdi Bozorgmehr is an ambitious book that evaluates the handling of Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans after the September 11 attacks and the successive organizational responses. While this book consists of 8 chapters and an appendix, it starts with a comprehensive conceptual outline of backlash (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2009, p.29). In addition to the conceptual synopsis, the book compares Muslim persecution by the American government to other groups in the entire history of the country such as Japanese-Americans during the First World War. The comparison is followed by an evaluation of the immigration patterns and demographics among Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans since 1965 to 2004. This is mainly because this is the period when huge numbers of these groups migrated into the United States.

The comparison and analysis sets the stage for understanding the post 9/11 backlash of these groups. In order to help in the understanding the backlash, Bakalian and Bozorgmehr examine incidents of prejudice, reports of hate crimes, and several governmental efforts targeting these groups around America. One of the major central concerns during this analysis is the political and civic recruitment of almost 50 organizations and the subsequent religious accommodations. This is mainly because the authors seek to demonstrate the organized actions of groups whose leaders have insider knowledge. The book concludes with a timeline of actions instituted by the government immediately after these attacks until February 2007. The authors have also included the U.S.A. Patriot Act as one of the governmental actions established following the attacks (Jalalzai, 2009, p.443).

Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond is one of the most significant and detailed books in the modern American society to an extent that it should be of interest to scholars in various fields such as sociology, political science, law, and ethnicity. Before the book was published, there was no systematic study of the effect of enacted terrorism laws on the affected communities as well as their responses. During this period, the Middle Eastern and Muslim communities were already suffering from several anti-terrorism legislations including the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Furthermore, the events of 9/11 terror attacks created a series of restraining legal constructs targeting Muslim and Middle Eastern communities in America. The enacted regulations and legal constructs created scholarly legal studies that are critical of them. Since the authors are sociologists, Bakalian and Borzorgmehr set to design conceptual transparency of the incident of backlash and community mobilization. The authors also introduce ethnicity and religion as the bases for response mobilization. These two elements are often neglected by immigration, social movements, and racial and ethnic specialists. As a result, the authors have succeeded in providing a visibly described model of backlash and community mobilization in a style accessible to researchers, students, and the entire public.

The first chapter of the book defines and creates a form of backlash and creates the conditions for mobilization. The following middle chapters of the book examine the effect of hate crimes and governmental initiatives whereas the final chapter focuses on mobilization (Hagopian, 2009, p.516). In their analysis, the authors define backlash as personal acts of scapegoating and hate crimes. However, the repressive nature of backlash is deeply experienced when the state provides laws and takes actions against the affected groups. Therefore, the governmental backlash assumes the targeted groups to be probable fifth columnists that need policies to anticipate and prevent harms and threats to the United States society.

Consequently, the book is very significant in various means since it the first detailed examination of the effect of the 9/11 backlash on the besieged communities. Secondly, the book offers a structure for evaluation of backlash and mobilization during crisis. Third, the authors have examined the topic through placing the modern backlash in historical perspective that dates back from the German-American experience in the First World War to the present. Furthermore, it provides an Appendix that records the timeline of government initiatives after the 9/11 events and concludes with an extensive list of references. Therefore, Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond is a pioneering and valuable piece of literature that offers a strong sociological foundation that others can build on. However, Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans would have additional greater historical depth and conceptual depth if the book incorporated an evaluation of the 1972 Operation Boulder. This would have provided a complete exploration of the demonization and suspicion of these communities through the government initiative against Arab-Americans.

Understanding Backlash based on the Book:

Generally, backlash can contribute to group mobilization by community-based organizations like in the events of 9/11 attacks. While the attack was traumatic for the United States, the authors argue that Middle Eastern and Muslim-origin individuals did not experience severe backlash as earlier groups like the Japanese-Americans. The lack of severe backlash was primarily because of the considerable number of civil rights regulations enacted by 1965 and watchdog organizations that have developed since then.

However, attempts by the authors to examine the effect of 9/11 government initiatives on Middle Easterners and Muslims proved difficult, especially methodically. In light of these challenges, the authors stressed on identifiable community-based organization leaders and sympathetic civil rights groups. While they recognized that these leaders were not normal of their members, Bakalian and Borzorgmehr believed that they provided knowledgeable contextual information on how the incidents affected their communities. As a result, these authors carried out 75 in-depth interviews in which 60 of them were with top Middle Eastern/Muslim CBO leaders and the rest from other informed sources (Bakalian and Borzorgmehr, 2009, p.25). They also evaluated organizational websites and Listservs to document mobilization.

In light of the analysis and interviews, the author's findings on mobilization are quite noticeable. This is mainly because the affected groups developed their responses to the demonization and mistrust of their communities within a patriotic mainstream message in the United States. During this process, they distanced themselves from the ideological behaviors and attitudes of the 9/11 perpetrators as they sought political and civil assimilation into the American society. Moreover, they also provided claims for equal treatment and protection based on the civil rights legislations and constitutional principles. Throughout this process, they created skills and contacts that have made them to be considered as new players in the social and political life in the United States.

Bakalian and Borzorgmehr discovered that backlash comprises of hate crimes and harassment though it also incorporates a state's actions that unfairly targets an outgroup or minority population. The authors attempted to conceptualize backlash, which was yet to be conceptualized despite being widely used in social science literature, popular media, and scholarship. As a result of their conceptualization, the authors define backlash as an extreme and unfavorable societal and governmental response to an ideological or political crisis against a group or groups of people.

Critique of the Book:

Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond is arguably a ground-breaking and valuable book that provides a strong foundation for understanding the impact of 9/11 backlash on the besieged communities. However, the book does not fully explore the impact of governmental initiatives on Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans. Despite of laying the strong foundation, the book has several shortcomings including & #8230;

Undermining the Severity of the Backlash:

During the analysis of backlash and mobilization after the 9/11 attacks, the authors seemingly underestimate the severity of the backlash that Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans experienced. Nonetheless, the authors recognize that the 9/11 terror attacks were traumatic for the United States in light of its national security (Hagopian, 2009, p.517). In undermining the severity of the backlash, the authors argue that Middle Easterners and Muslims did not experience backlash as compared to the Japanese-Americans were subjected to. This is mainly because of the considerable amount of civil rights laws and watchdog organizations… [END OF PREVIEW]

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