As the nation tried to absorb the shock of the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans were caught up in an unprecedented wave of backlash violence. Public discussion revealed that widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islam persisted, despite the striking diversity of the Muslim community.
Letting the voices of 140 ordinary Muslim American men and women describe their experiences, Lori Peek's book, Behind the Backlash presents moving accounts of prejudice and exclusion. Muslims speak of being subjected to harassment before the attacks, and recount the discrimination they encountered afterwards. Peek also explains the struggles of young Muslim adults to solidify their community and define their identity during a time of national crisis.
Behind the Backlash seeks to explain why blame and scapegoating occur after a catastrophe. Peek sets the twenty-first century experience of Muslim Americans, who were vilified and victimized, in the context of larger sociological and psychological processes. Peek’s book will be of interest to those in disaster research studies, sociology of religion, and race and ethnic relations.
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Symbolic Interaction: "While relating the stories of Muslim Americans struggling for acceptance in America following 9/11, Peek’s work in Behind the Backlash offers analytic insights that spell out many of the social dynamics processing Muslim marginalization and traumatization, as well as in their constructive responses. Peek does well in explaining why Muslim Americans were so readily viliﬁed and then so easily victimized by some of their fellow Americans and their government, and sheds light on the social forces associated with post disaster blame assignment and backlash. What Peek describes has important implications for all Americans concerned for minority groups that suddenly become suspect, and in this case the focus of national attention after an unnatural disaster." -- Emanuel Boussios, SUNY- Nassau Community College & New York University and Fifi Anastasiadis, Farmingdale State College
Choice: "In this savvy, research-based book, sociologist Peek (Colorado State Univ.) reports on interviews with Arab and South Asian Muslim Americans conducted after the 9/11 attacks. Peek provides an excellent introduction to the oppressive realities these Americans face, including sharp increases in hate crimes and illegal government spying after 9/11. Chapters mostly deal well with the attack's aftermath--racist stereotyping and harassment Muslim American respondents face in many areas, such as racial profiling on the streets and violent confrontations, and the sharply increased fear, isolation, and other negative impacts they experience. A penultimate chapter lays out their significant adaptations and resistance strategies. This important book counters many US myths about Muslim Americans, their origins, and their life experiences. It makes them "come alive" as important US residents seeking to counter "othering" by fellow Americans. One limitation is that the analysis is mostly informed theoretically by the useful disaster research literature (the author's specialty) and makes less use of previous social science research on Muslim Americans and relevant theories of race/racism than is necessary to make full sense of these anti-Muslim realities. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." -- J. R. Feagin, Texas A&M University
Library Review Journal: "Prior to the 9/11 attacks, U.S. anti-Muslim sentiments were largely hidden, and their overt manifestations were generally limited to fringe hate groups. Since 9/11, there has been a backlash of violence and discrimination against Muslims in America; anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia have reached an unprecedented level. In this highly readable and informative book, Peek (sociology, Colorado State Univ.) allows readers to hear from 140 Muslim Americans on their personal encounters with prejudice, discrimination, and general harassment in their day-to-day existence. Although Muslims constitute about two percent of the American population, a sizable section of the U.S. political Right has now made Muslim bashing an integral part of its sociopolitical and cultural discourse. Peek’s research ended before the most recent public campaigns against Muslims, but this does not diminish the value of her work as she seeks to explain how and why vilification and scapegoating of a minority intensifies after a major catastrophe. VERDICT This is a book that should be read by all concerned Americans as well as students of ethnic relations." -- Nader Entessar, University of South Alabama
Sociological Inquiry: "What Peek ha[s] accomplished...is a pedagogical feat: [she has] taken topics that are certainly not dinnertime conversation and ha[s] woven such intricate tapestries of the social construction and framing of experience (whether positive or negative, scrutinized or ignored) that the reader comes away with a cogent understanding of the impact of the backlash of disaster on an underrepresented and socially ‘misconstructed’ ethnic group in the United States (Muslim Americans), the contribution of such an analysis to the study of technological disasters (under which terrorism is subsumed), and a quick course in how ethnographic research should be done. If it were up to me, Peek’s Behind the Backlash would be required reading for every student of sociology and of disasters." -- Dana M. Greene, University of North Carolina
The International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters: "This is an intensely personal work of scholarship....[It] provides an important window into the hearts and minds of the Muslims among us. It will be much appreciated by scholars of disaster response as well as social scientists interested in the experience of minority populations." -- Carla Prater, Hazard Reduction & Recovery, Texas A & M University
Social Science Journal: " Behind the Backlash addresses the issue of Muslim American backlash in a post 9/11 environment through the use of a strong and clear thesis that explicates the public and political exclusion faced by Muslim Americans before and particularly, in the aftermath of 9/11....This study is significant because it provides outstanding and relevant insight into the public and political reaction to crisis events and the subsequent marginalization of members of society due to catastrophes beyond their control. Peek's research is also important...[she] provides the reader with testimonials that are compelling and invaluable to an understanding of the human and societal components and consequences resulting from crisis events. Lori Peek's work is insightful...[i]t enhances the reader's awareness of the lived experiences of sectors of society who are impacted by resulting societal and political scapegoating." -- Nikkia DeLuz, Lynn University
Sociology of Religion: "[A] well-researched, thoughtful examination of how processes of postdisaster backlash heighten social boundaries, despite both popular and scholarly assumptions of solidarity after disaster.... One highlight of Peek’s analysis is her sensitive consideration of the impact of 9/11 backlash on respondents who are less 'visibly Muslim.'...[The book] is engagingly written and often powerful." -- Christine Soriea Sheikh, University of Denver
Natural Hazards Observer: “Someone was to blame for the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, and the easiest people to blame were the generic “Muslims.” Lori Peek’s fascinating book listens to the voices of 140 Muslim-Americans who were subjected to discrimination and harassment both before and after the attacks. Two women describe their frustration with the stares they encountered: “Right after 9/11, I was scared of looking into people’s eyes in the subway. That’s why I was always looking down. I didn’t want to see that they were staring at me. Now I’ll look around a little more. When I’m studying for class, I can see they try to see what I’m studying. They’ll look at my books.”
And Mohammed, born in Morocco, but living in the United States since he was very young: “When I heard President Bush give that whole long talk about how Americans should respect Muslims and respect Islam, it’s a beautiful religion and stuff, I said, ‘Wow, I really like this guy. I’m actually growing to respect him.’ But then, in the next breath he says, ‘But we must go to war with these Muslim terrorists.’ On the one hand he says, ‘Respect the Muslims; respect the Arabs.’ Then out of the other side of his face he says, ‘We must go to war with the Arab terrorists.’ It’s confusing to the American people. What’s up with the Arabs? Should we respect them or are they Arab terrorists? How can we tell who’s a regular, nice Muslim and who’s a Muslim terrorist?” Peek takes these specific instances and weaves them into a narrative of scapegoating and blame after a disaster that will inform discussions about religion, race relations, and disaster research.” --Dan Whipple, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado
Political Science Quarterly: “Expertly organizing data from in-depth interviews of 140 Muslim Americans conducted soon after September 11, Peek provides a compelling and intimate look at members of a community struggling with events that suddenly overtook their lives. Throughout, Peek demonstrates great skill as a researcher and writer, seamlessly weaving salient themes from the academic literature (for example, immigration, assimilation and socialization, social identity, prejudice and discrimination, gender, and emotions) into the narrative without letting her references to the literature distract from her storytelling.” -- Elizabeth Suhay, Lafayette College
American Journal of Sociology: “Behind the Backlash not only documents the impact of backlash, it also illuminates how 9/11 became the turning point in Muslim American experiences. As we enter the second decade since the attacks, this will be an important study for scholars seeking to understand what lies ahead for Muslims living in the United States.” -- Saher Selod, Loyola University
Contemporary Sociology: "[The book]is most useful as a compilation of firsthand accounts of young Muslim Americans’ experiences after 9/11. The fact that Peek was able to begin interviewing her respondents so soon after the attacks provides a window into the raw feelings of a population experiencing sudden scapegoating and discrimination and the sometimes surprising ways in which they dealt with and responded to this backlash."--Mehdi Bozorgmehr, Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC), the Graduate Center, CUNY
Perspectives on Politics: “One of several recently released books that address this topic, Behind the Backlash is distinctive in the careful attention Peek gives to the voices of her 140 interviewees and in her effort to explain the development of the backlash itself from the framework of disaster studies."--Sally Howell, University of MIchigan
Religious Studies Review: "On the whole, this is a strong, sociological study, well researched, easy to read, recommended for anyone interested in exploring Islamic studies, religion in America, and the sociology of America. Applying literature on the sociology of disaster and trauma to the 9/11 attacks, this book offers insight into what it means to be a Muslim American and into the dynamics of contemporary American life."--Nicole Heather Libin, Mount Royal University
United Academics Journal of Social Sciences: “[Peek] ends with the important and sad observation that Muslim Americans, besides being discriminated and persecuted on many other levels, found themselves outside the bounded territory that separated the “legitimate sufferers” from others after 9/11. Whereas other victims could collectively grieve and share their deepest feelings with total strangers, Muslim Americans experienced grief that was unshared, unacknowledged outside their faith community and sometimes even contested by outsiders. She calls on communities to extend their boundaries to include the most marginalized in society.”--Elke Weesjes, United Academics Journal of Social Sciences