It’s when she flies that Erum Sayed-Khan feels different. Specifically, when they check her bags.
“They claim it’s random, but it happens every single time,” she said. “I don’t get mad; I understand this is what the world has come to.
“I also want to fly on a safe airplane. I also want my children to be safe. They can check my bags. Check other people, too.”
When Osama bin Laden and others used Islamic scripture to justify attacks such as those on Sept. 11, 2001, they put Sayed-Khan’s religion in the spotlight – and many Muslims say they fear some people came away with a distorted image of a religion that preaches peace.
The Quran, Islam’s holy book, contains this passage: “To kill one innocent man or woman is to kill all of humanity.”
“Every time (non-Muslims) see something on the news about terrorism, it portrays the faith in the wrong picture,” said Mohammad Hussain of the Islamic Society of Evansville.
“It’s distorted. Have you ever come across someone who is an extremist? Nobody in this area has ever come across people like that, and I hope they never do.”
Hussain and others are quick to point out that they’ve seen or heard about very little discrimination to the 200 or so Muslims in the Tri-State. And many of those cases were ambiguous, such as in 2002 when Hussain had to get extra clearance to board an airplane.
(It may not have been because he is Muslim, but rather because of his last name, which is similar to that of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein). “In conversations, they feel like maybe they’ve been singled out,” Hussain said. “A lot of that happened very close to Sept. 11. I think things have eased in the last few years.”
Still, a 2006 Gallup poll found that more than one-third of all Americans believe U.S. Muslims support al-Qaida, and less than half thought Muslims were loyal to the U.S. So Muslims here and across the country have felt it necessary to publicly distinguish themselves from Islamic extremists.
Just last month, many Islamic groups, including the National Council on American-Islamic Relations, felt the need to issue statements denouncing the 21 individuals arrested for plotting to use liquid explosives on flights from the United Kingdom to the United States.
“The American Muslim community has always been dedicated to the protection of our national security,” the council statement read in part. “… Muslims are law-abiding citizens who should not be targeted or singled out because of their faith or national origin.”