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Athena Salman Pushes Back on Paul Krugman, Says Hate Was 'Norm' After 9/11

Athena Salman
Athena Salman
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Arizona lawmaker Athena Salman was among those pushing back against a 9/11-related tweet today by economist Paul Krugman that no "mass outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence" occurred after the 2001 attacks.

"Overall, Americans took 9/11 pretty calmly," Krugman wrote. "Notably, there wasn't a mass outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence, which could all too easily have happened."

By Friday afternoon, Krugman's tweet had been ratioed with more than 28,000 "quote tweets," most criticizing the New York Times columnist.

"My family still suffers psychological trauma to this day, @paulkrugman," Salman, who represents Tempe and other parts of east metro Phoenix, wrote. "To selectively ignore the anti-Arab discrimination we’ve had to live with since 9/11, and the booming multi-million dollar Islamophobia industry that grew in its aftermath, is white supremacy."

Salman, the Arizona House Democratic Whip who is set to begin a third term of office next year, is the daughter of a Palestinian father and mother whose parents were German and Mexican, as she's said in public speeches.

The controversy of Krugman's tweet largely comes down to the meaning of "mass outbreak," with some tweeters arguing that denying a "mass outbreak" of hate crimes occurred minimizes the harassment and violence that did occur. Anti-Krugman tweeters piled on those who agreed with Krugman, including a Phoenix New Times writer (that would be me).

Following the attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans, a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment did indeed take place. FBI stats show that reported hate crimes against Muslims jumped from 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001. Incidents reported to the FBI by local law enforcement in subsequent years dropped, but stayed at about 150 per year. About 3.4 million Muslim live in the United States now, while roughly two million lived in the country in 2001.

Arizona wasn't immune to post-9/11 violence. Four days after the attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot dead in the Mesa convenience store he owned by a self-described "patriot" who mistook the Sikh man for a Muslim because of the turban he wore.

The shooting, one of several following the attacks, stunned the local Phoenix population. About 3,000 people turned out for a memorial service for Sodhi.

Salman said in her response to Krugman that she "was friends with Balbir Singh Sodhi’s niece. I lived in constant fear that what happened to her family could happen to ours." After the attacks, "we were barraged with racial slurs at school and in our community. We were put on a selective screening list with no means of removal."

Salman also tweeted in response to New Times that her father received a death threat after 9/11, she got harassed by teachers and peers, and her brother was "beaten, called racial slurs & sidelined on his basketball team." She added that this was "the NORM for Arab Americans" at the time.

An article on the Krugman tweet flap in The Wrap notes other criticisms that anti-Muslim violence was being downplayed, including one from Virginia House of Delegates member Ibraheem Samirah: “A maj. Muslim Chicagoland school I went to in 5th grade had to shut down for 2 weeks because of bomb threats. My local mosque got hit with a Molotov within the first 24 hours. A literal pitchfork-wielding group of white supremacists came to my hood demanding we ‘go back home.'”

Many tweeters, however, seemed to ignore the thrust of Krugman's tweet thread, which attacked former President George W. Bush and ended with his opinion that, "Almost two decades on, it's now clear that the real threat to America comes not from foreign terrorists but from home-grown white supremacists. But you know what? That was true even in 2001."

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