In the 2000 election, approximately 70% of Muslims in America voted for Bush; among non-African-American Muslims, the ratio was over 80%.
Four years later, Bush’s share of the vote among Muslims was 4%.
What happened? Well, a lot.
It would be easy to say everything changed on 9/11 – because everything did change on 9/11. But 9/11 was a chance for America to show off the better angels of its nature, and as a nation, by and large, we did. A week after the World Trade Center came crashing down, President Bush spoke before both houses of Congress in one of the defining moments of his presidency. He did not disappoint, and while he outlined the need to attack Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, he was scrupulous not to point the finger at Muslims in general. “The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics, a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam,” he said. And later, “I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”
In the chaos and hysteria that accompanied the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush’s speech was deeply reassuring to American Muslims that whatever the fallout of the attacks would be on our community, the federal government was on our side.
But words were not followed with actions. Quite the contrary; a month later, when the PATRIOT Act was signed into law, Muslims were taken aback by the far-reaching implications. Citizens could have their phones or computers tapped with neither their knowledge nor any recourse. Muslims in Indiana found themselves on the No-Fly List because they had the misfortune of sharing the same name with a terrorist suspect in India - and there was essentially no way to clear their name from the list. Thousands of Muslims, many of whom had lived and worked in America for decades, were arrested on flimsy immigration violations and deported back to their countries of birth.