Four post-9/11 measures that targeted Muslims in the US

Four post-9/11 measures that targeted Muslims in the US
3 min read
11 September, 2021
As the world was reeling from the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, the US government introduced several measures that targeted its own Muslim communities.
Several of these measures had long-reaching consequences [Getty]

The September 11, 2001 attacks  are regarded as some of the worst-ever terror attacks on the US and paved the way for an aggressive escalation in US policy in the Middle East.

As the US reeled from the events, the government, then led by President George W Bush, introduced series of  knee-jerk measures, many of which directly targeted and undermined the civil rights and civil liberties of Muslim Americans.

Amid tragedy, the US government sought to gain control by targeting parts of its population it deemed to be a threat.

Here are a few ways that US governments have targeted Muslims since 9/11:

1. Watchlists

“The watchlist system is a set of interconnected national security programs throughout the federal government that essentially acts as a ‘stop-and-frisk’ program that often targets Muslims for enhanced screening and interrogations,” writes the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The watchlists were created using an executive order called the Terrorism Screening Database in 2003 by President Bush.

It has one million names on it currently, including many American Muslims who are on the 'No Fly' and 'Selectee List' – including children.


A federal lawsuit recently revealed that these watchlists have been distributed to local government, employers and banking institutions. Those on these lists have come up against barriers when looking for jobs, getting loans and bank accounts and even big purchases like cars.

2. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)

The NSEERS program has been criticised by rights groups for targeting men and boys coming from Muslim countries.

Under this system, men and boys, mainly from Muslim countries are told to go to an immigration office, where they are photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed.

In the weeks that followed 9/11, the federal government detained nearly 800 Muslim citizens and immigrants, and held them for weeks without being charged.

Another Bush administration creation, the program had strict protocols and if they weren’t followed, there would be arrests and deportations.

The program ceased being used by the Department of Homeland Security in 2011 and eventually ended by the Obama administration after it was found to be a discriminatory profiling campaign.

3. Government-sanctioned spying on Muslims and the use of informants

The New York Police Department (NYPD) created an illegal human mapping program that spied on and infiltrated Islamic institutions, including mosques, study groups and even businesses between 2001 and 2004.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest Trump's controversial Muslim ban, 2017 [Getty]

The FBI built a network of some 15,000 registered informants to spy on Muslims in the city. They were referred to as “mosque crawlers”.

Police officials, according to CAIR, admit the program “generated zero criminal leads”.

In 2014 the special unit was disbanded, and in 2018 the NYPD paid $75,000 in damages and $1 million dollars in legal fees.

4. Anti-Sharia laws and the infamous Muslim ban

There have been 221 anti-Muslim and “anti-foreign” bills introduced in 44 state legislatures and Congress since 2001.

In 2017, US President Donald Trump introduced the widely criticised Muslim ban, which presented discriminatory travel restrictions for people coming to America mainly from Muslim countries, including Libya, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

The ban, despite major opposition, was upheld, prompting global condemnation, nationwide protests and Muslim families in the US facing serious challenges.

US President Joe Biden repealed the Muslim ban on his first day of office.