How Terror Attacks Drive a Wedge Between Muslims and Non-Muslims in the U.S.

Anti-Muslim Group Holds
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Earlier this week in Philadelphia, someone left a severed, bloody pig’s head on the sidewalk outside of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society. This, as Daily Intelligencer noted yesterday, is just one of several anti-Muslim acts that have occurred around the world since the Paris terror attacks last month. Now, some new research hints at the potential long-term impact of incidents such as these, and how terrorism works to drive a wedge between Muslim immigrants and non-Muslims living in the U.S.

A pair of economists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined census records and state-by-state hate-crime data from the FBI in the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, paying careful attention to the states where there were more reported incidents suggesting a backlash against Muslims. Their findings suggest that in those states, the Muslim immigrant community subsequently became more insular, reports NPR’s Shankar Vedantam.

We find that in states that had a bigger backlash against the Muslim community, we find lower rates of assimilation, meaning they become much more likely to marry within their community, a lower likelihood of speaking English well and speaking English at home, and lower rates of female labor-force participation,” Eric Gould, a co-author of the study, told Vedantam on “Morning Edition.” 

The paper, titled “The Long-run Effect of 9/11: Terrorism, Backlash, and the Assimilation of Muslim Immigrants in the West,” was published online this summer in The Economic Journal. Vedantam notes that this research provides empirical evidence of the long-term divisiveness that can result in the years after a terrorist attack. “Terrorism is a form of theater — it always has an audience in mind,” he told “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep, and the evidence shows that terrorist attacks are “a very effective way to drive people apart.” 

The Long-Term Divisive Effects of Terrorism