9/11
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Time Period
9/11/2001
Description
On September 11, 2001, 19 Saudi Arabian Muslims representing the al-Qaeda terrorist network hijacked four commercial airplanes, two of which crashed into New York City’s Twin Towers and one crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Although the fourth plane targeted Washington, D.C., passengers forced it to crash into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Twin Towers collapsed and part of the Pentagon was destroyed. More than 3,000 people died that day.

The event was the catalyst for two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and deepened anti-Muslim sentiments in America, even though al-Qaeda espoused a form of militant Islamism not approved by the majority of Muslims in the world.
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Narrative
The Al-Qaeda terrorist network espoused a form of Islamic extremism that was militant and reinforced hatred of the United States and the West in general. Both America’s involvement in the Gulf War and the support for Israel led al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and others in 1998 to issue a fatwa, a verdict based on Islamic law, for Muslims everywhere to kill Americans and American allies. After attacks on U.S. embassies in two major East African cities that same year, the FBI placed bin Laden on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The next planned attack would become one of the deadliest attacks on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941.

On September 11, 2001, 19 Saudi Arabian Muslims representing al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airplanes, two of which crashed into New York City’s Twin Towers and one crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Although the fourth plane targeted Washington, D.C., passengers forced it to crash into a field near Shanksville, PA. The Twin Towers collapsed and part of the Pentagon was destroyed.

Approximately 3,000 people died that day. Specifically, 2,750 people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 in Pennsylvania. Rushing to the scene of the attacks, 400 police officers and firefighters were killed. All 19 terrorists died.

Immediately afterwards, U.S. government officials named bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization prime suspects. Bin Laden initially denied responsibility but later admitted to coordinating the attacks.

As a militant Islamist group, the suicide mission on September 11 was seen as a religious one by the airplane hijackers. The handwritten instructions read, "You should ask God for guidance, you should ask God for help.... Continue to recite the [Koran]. Purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters." The instructions continued, "The time of fun and waste has gone. The time of judgment has arrived...You will be entering paradise. You will be entering the happiest life, everlasting life."

Despite the religious motives for the terrorist attacks, Muslims themselves generally do not approve of the terrorist attacks nor the methods espoused by Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaeda. In 2007, only one percent of Muslim Americans said that suicide bombings against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam and just 5 percent expressed at least a somewhat favorable opinion of al-Qaeda. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, a 47-nation survey, found that the vast majority of Muslim countries did not believe that suicide bombings were often/sometimes justified and rates of approval for suicide bombings decreased from 2002 to 2007.

Although President Bush said that the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not wars against Islam, the religious underpinnings of the terrorist attacks increased anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes in the United States. Anti-Muslim assaults increased from 12 reported victims in 2000 to 93 in 2001. In 2003, a Pew Research Poll reported that 44 percent of Americans say that Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, which was higher than previous years. In 2007, a majority of Muslim Americans said that it has become more difficult being a Muslim in the U.S. since the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2017, Muslims were one of the least liked religious minorities by Americans, along with atheists, and 75 percent of Muslim Americans said there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the United States.
Photographs

9-11 Towers burning- National Archives and Records Administration

9-11 Pentagon- Wikimedia Commons- US Government photo

9-11 Dust-covered survivors- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-01813

9-11 Ground Zero- Wikimedia Commons- US Navy photo

9-11 Flight 93 Memorial- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-highsm-13295
Book/Journal Source(s)
Gaustad, Edwin S. and Leigh Schmidt, 2004. The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
Web Source(s)
https://www.britannica.com/event/September-11-attacks
Encyclopedia Britannica, "September 11 attacks."
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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