Remembering September 11: How America Has Changed

"Nothing will ever be the same" was our constant refrain after the terrorist attacks. But how different are we today, really?

By Reader's Digest Editors


Brian Stauffer for Reader’s Digest

We are less tolerant of Islam.
Despite President Obama’s assurance on last year’s anniversary of 9/11 that “we are not at war with Islam,” a recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll found that only 30 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the Muslim religion — a sizable falloff from the 41 percent who held a similar opinion in 2005. Thirty-five percent of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, and more than half think Muslims “aren’t speaking out enough against potential terrorist attacks,” according to a Rasmussen poll. Last year, the proposed development of a Muslim cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero led to widespread protests against the project.

But not all of us take a dim view. “The events of 9/11 hardened Islamophobic ideas among some — but have also stimulated greater interest in and understanding of Islam among others,” says Mahmoud Ayoub, of the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. The Macdonald Center launched the first Islam chaplaincy program in the world about five years ago to provide Muslim chaplains to hospitals, the military, and elsewhere. Still, only about a dozen imams now serve in the U.S. armed forces. (In contrast, there are more than 800 Christian and Jewish chaplains in the Navy alone.)

Student enrollment in Arabic language classes surged after 9/11 and has tripled since, according to a survey of 2,500 colleges and universities. More college students now study Arabic than Russian. And there’s this: The 2010 Miss USA title went to Rima Fakih of Michigan, the first time an Arab American has won the crown.

Next: Are we more supportive of our military? »

Brian Stauffer for Reader's Digest

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