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Voluntary questioning leaves U.S. Arabs torn

He knew precisely what the letter was about. It was from the U.S. attorney's office--there was no mystery. What he didn't know was whether he should open it.

"I feel like I'm in trouble if I do or if I don't," said the 24-year-old, who asked to be identified only as Michael, even though that isn't his given name, isn't the name on the envelope. "Finally, I opened it. But I didn't call them. I don't know if I should talk to them. I don't have anything to tell them."

Michael is one of more than 600 Michigan men of Middle Eastern descent, the vast majority living in this Detroit suburb, to receive the letter asking them to speak with federal investigators. His quandary and anxiety go far in explaining the pall over the Arab community here--the largest in the United States--since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Michael, a native of Syria, falls into all the categories of men sought for questioning by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft: He's within the age range of 18 to 33, arrived in the U.S. less than two years ago, holds a student visa and came from a nation believed to harbor terrorists…


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