SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a California mosque where wall decorations tout love and peace, Saadia Ahmed ushered her guests from the prayer room to the kitchen. She explained the special prayers for Ramadan, the flat bread called naan and why Islam doesn’t condone violence.

Ever since terrorists steered planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, American Muslims have undertaken a public relations campaign to distance themselves from terrorists who, they say, hijacked Islam as well as the planes.

In the past five years, Muslims have given away free copies of the Quran. They’ve initiated letter-writing campaigns to local newspapers and public service announcements for TV shows such as “24,” which includes terrorist plots. And every Ramadan, they hold open houses so non-Muslims can visit mosques and learn about the religion they too often see in headlines and on news channels.

“There’s so much misconception about Islam right now,” said Ahmed, a member of Bait-ul-Baseer mosque. “We need to tell people: What you see on the media, what you hear, it’s not the truth about Islam.”

Despite their efforts, some reports suggest attitudes are hardening against Muslims. A Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this year found 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam; the poll suggests prejudice is higher now than immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, also found a quarter of Americans think “Muslims value life less than other people.”

CAIR said it received the highest number of complaints in its 12-year history in 2005, including employment discrimination, verbal harassment and profiling.


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