The Effects of Discrimination and Constraints Negotiation on Leisure Behavior of American Muslims in the Post-September 11 America

Article excerpt

The events of the September 11, 2001 had a profound effect on average "mainstream" Americans and also on many members of ethnic groups that call America their home. In the days, weeks and months following the events, anger of millions of Americans turned against those who were perceived to be responsible for or in some way associated with the individuals who had hijacked airliners and crashed them into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Since all 19 hijackers were identified as Muslims, anger of many Americans turned against members of this ethno-religious group. Muslims in the Middle East, Afghanistan, as well as American Muslims, many of whom resided in this country for generations, became the object of resentment and often outright hate. Public anger was directed not only against Arabs and/or Muslims, but also against anyone who could remotely be associated with people from the Middle East including Indians, Pakistanis, and people from South East Asia.

Muslims had been the targets of discriminatory acts long before the events of September 11. Ongoing conflicts with Arab countries, military engagement of the United States in some, mostly Muslim states, and past terrorist attacks contributed to unfavorable attitudes many members of the American public shared toward this ethnic group. In the 1990s Arabs and Muslims in general were the target of increased discrimination including profiling at universities and in other public domains (Nimer, 2001). Scientific and media sources have reported discrimination in the job market (Nimer, 2001; Sachs, 2002), schools (Associated Press, 2001; Nimer, 2001), public settings (Sachs, 2002), homes (Khan, 2002), and personal businesses (Walkup, 2001). Similarly to other ethno-religious groups, difficulties experienced by Muslims in other life domains have been widely researched and documented. However, discrimination encountered in leisure settings appears to have been completely overlooked. This lack of research is particularly unfortunate given the fact that treatment received during leisure engagements significantly contributes to a person's quality of life and has an effect on the adjustment of ethnic groups in the new country (Rublee & Shaw, 1991; Stodolska & Jackson, 1998).

It is well established in the literature that members of ethnic and racial groups are the targets of persistent discrimination in leisure settings (Blahna & Black, 1993; Floyd & Gramann, 1995; Gobster & Delgado, 1993). Research studies began to systematically trace, report, analyze, and explain the incidents of discrimination in leisure in the late 1980s (West, 1989) and the continued interest in this topic has been present in our literature ever since. Considering the fact that other ethnic groups have been shown to experience negative treatment in leisure settings, and that Muslims have been known to experience significant difficulties in other domains of their life, it seems unlikely that their free time activities would be free from encounters with discrimination. Consequently, the objectives of this study were twofold. (1) First, we intend to give an account of the discrimination American Muslims have been subjected to during the first year following the events of September 11 and to establish how these experiences have affected their leisure behavior. (2) Second, our study is intended to analyze people's responses to discrimination and the strategies that American Muslims use to overcome adversities and to deal with obstacles to their leisure participation.

The goal of this research was to focus on experiences of people who could be singled out as members of the "target group" (i.e. someone of the same ethnicity/religious background as people involved in the September 11 attacks). Evidence points to public resentment against a broad range of minority groups that extends beyond those associated with Middle Eastern geographic region or with the Islamic faith. …