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How New York's Muslims Are Responding To Manhattan Truck Attack


Blocks away from New York's worst terror attack since 9/11, more than a million people attended the Halloween parade last night. The marathon is scheduled to go forward this weekend. New York prides itself on resilience. For Muslim New Yorkers, there are added challenges to returning to normal the day after an event like this.

Hussein Rashid is a professor in the religion department at Columbia University, and he's a native New Yorker. Welcome to the program.

HUSSEIN RASHID: Thanks for having me on, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Around 7 o'clock last night, you tweeted, I am a New Yorker and a Muslim. Stand tall. Stand proud. That's our city - #ManhattanAttack - and also, F all y'all who want to mess with us. Although you wrote a little more than F. Who did you mean when you said all y'all who want to mess with us?

RASHID: From my perspective, it's anybody who wants to mess with our city and, as you hinted at, you know, the backlash against Muslims that are going to come after this. But this is our city, and it's up to us to really make it as resilient as we can. And that means not turning on each other.

SHAPIRO: And so at this point, are you almost expecting a backlash?

RASHID: I think we've seen this cycle repeatedly - that there is an attack. Whether it's committed by a Muslim or not, there's often a backlash against Muslim communities. And when it is committed by a Muslim, there's a real sense of collective guilt. And I really feel particularly for Muslim women who wear hijab who are very visibly Muslim to be in this environment right now.

SHAPIRO: I understand the experience of collective blame because we so often see a jump in hate crimes. I'm surprised to hear you say there's a sense of collective guilt.

RASHID: I don't know if Muslims feel a sense of collective guilt. I think it's more that they are told that they should be collectively guilty. And really, it's not just Muslims. Again, it's obviously Muslim women who are in hijab but also Sikh men in turbans and beards. It's basically an excuse to let out our worst racist instincts.

SHAPIRO: Does it seem like a double standard to you? I'm thinking about the fact that after Dylann Roof opened fire on a black church in Charleston, white Christians were not collectively called upon to answer for his actions.

RASHID: I absolutely do believe it's a double standard. I mean, I think Dylann Roof is a good example. But today is one month since the Las Vegas shooting. And then it was too soon to talk about common sense gun control. But in less than 24 hours, we're talking about banning all Muslims from this country again.

SHAPIRO: And so what are Muslims doing in New York and I would imagine in other parts of the country as well to prepare for that expected backlash, to support each other?

RASHID: The Muslim community comes together, and they share best practices about traveling together, about making sure that they're always with people that they trust, avoid talking to law enforcement without lawyers present. But I think there is also a sense of going outside the Muslim community that's so important. And it's sad that we have to think about community building as a sense of protection rather than just being New Yorkers, but that's the state we're in now.

SHAPIRO: If people are being radicalized from within the United States, trust between law enforcement and the Muslim community seems really important. And when you say avoid talking to law enforcement without the presence of a lawyer, it makes me think things might be moving in the wrong direction.

RASHID: Well, I think that that's a really popular misconception, Ari. You know, whether you're Muslim or not, you should be speaking with a lawyer present when you talk to law enforcement. That's your right as a citizen, and it's the exercise of that right that allows us to keep ourselves in check.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell us what you were thinking when you heard the initial reports of this attack last night?

RASHID: You know, it's fast-moving. I was reading the news on Twitter. We didn't know what was happening. And in many of these situations, my first thought is always, God, may not let it be a Muslim. And God, please keep the loss of life down. And these are the two things that have just become sort of a nice prayer, whether it is an assault weapons attack in a place like Los Vegas or a motor vehicle attack in New York. It's just become too ritualized now at this point.

SHAPIRO: Professor Hussein Rashid is in the religion department at Columbia University. He's also a native New Yorker. Thanks so much for joining us today.

RASHID: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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