DETROIT — Alice Alaouie is quite frightened by the fact that most people seem to know little about her faith, Islam.

The spray painting of hateful graffiti on the side of the old site of her mosque, the Islamic Center of America, and a spike of similar incidents in Metro Detroit and around the country in recent weeks lead Alaouie and other Muslims to believe that hate is escalating to a dangerous peak.

“It’s scary for us, it’s scary for me personally,” says Alaouie, 23, who is active with youth groups at the mosque. “The people are concerned. It’s a little snowball that formed on 9/11, and it rolled, and now it’s really big. It’s a phobia.

“Hopefully, more knowledge and the unity among religions will pull us through.”

As they celebrated this week the feast of Ashura, which commemorates the sacrifices made on behalf of the faith, Muslims are anxious for their safety and the safety of their mosques. In three weeks, there have been five local incidents at mosques involving vandalism or a confrontation with a leader.

There have been similar events across the country, including an assault on a man in Lackawanna, N.Y., on Jan. 17; a window broken at a mosque in West Richland, Wash., on Jan. 19; a fire allegedly set at a mosque in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 20; shots fired at an empty mosque in Fremont, Calif., on Jan. 22. All these incidents have persuaded Muslims that they are struggling for Islam in America.

Incidents mainly target Islam

While two of the recent incidents of vandalism in Metro Detroit may be Muslims acting against Muslims, the majority here and nationwide have targeted Islam itself in what appears to be an escalating line of attack.

“At work, I am told (by coworkers) that all Muslims should leave this country,” said Hassen Sobh of Sterling Heights, who works for Ford Motor Co. “What can you do? You deal with ignorant people all around the world.

“Who wanted 9/11? None of us! You can’t judge 1.4 billion (Muslim) people around the world by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

“These are Godless people, who do such hateful things,” Sobh said of the terrorists, dictators and the vandals. “God will deal with them, either now or after their deaths.”

Five months ago, many Muslims said their lives were more worrisome on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 than in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks. “It is disturbing because, in Metro Detroit, there never has been this many vandalisms in such a short period of time,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan. “I am bracing myself every morning, hoping that I am not going to get another report.”

Both the council and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have asked local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the local and national incidents and to step up patrols of mosques.


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