Bay Ridge is geographically close to the hipster Brooklyn neighbourhoods of Park Slope and Williamsburg but could not be more culturally different. It is a world away from the financial district in Manhattan, the epicentre of the September 11 2001 attacks. But Brooklyn is also home to the largest group of people in the US who trace their lineage back to the Arab world, according to census data. And while the heightened sense of a threat from Islamic terrorism that existed post-attacks may have gone, it has given way to a persistent, low-level paranoia that pervades the everyday lives of the million-plus Muslim Arab Americans living here and throughout the country.
Islamophobia in the US is becoming entrenched, according to some Muslim leaders. “We’re living in one of the most hostile civic environments for the Muslim community,” says Faiza Ali, a community organiser at the Arab American Association in Bay Ridge. “And it’s gotten worse since 9/11.”
Hate-crime statistics collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed a sharp spike in violence against Muslims after the 2001 attacks, which levelled out until 2009, when it started ticking up again. There are always problems following events carried out by Muslims, such as the Boston Marathon bombings in March.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that in 2011, 21 per cent of the religion-based complaints it received were from Muslims – although they comprise less than 1 per cent of the population.