Siham Awada Jaafer is American, through and through. Born and raised in Metro Detroit, she and her husband are proud citizens, living red, white and blue lives of aspiration and duty.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Jaafer was angry at the terrorists who attacked her country. Her resentment has only grown.

“I was angry at first because it occurred on our turf, in our country,” said Jaafer, an Arab-American. “Now, we are in danger because of the terrorists, and we are also suspected of being them.”

Local Muslims and Arab-Americans hoped that, by now, discrimination and harassment would have ebbed. Instead, they say, things have only gotten worse. Each new event involving extremist Muslims — like the recent terrorism charges in Great Britain and the Israeli war against Hezbollah — increases misgivings about local Muslims. From hassles at the airport, to delayed citizenship, to verbal taunts, local Muslims, including South Asians and Arabs, say they feel increasingly segregated.

They remind people that almost 300 Muslims also died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and wonder when will it be time for followers of Islam and Arab-Americans to be fully accepted as Americans?

“There is a deep sense of uncertainty that faces the community,” said Saaed Khan of Rochester Hills, an adjunct professor of Near East Asian studies at Henry Ford Community College. “Many Muslim Americans feel a double sense of siege, one by the terrorists and the other is the way the society views them.”

Intolerance hasn’t ebbed

Evidence of intolerance abounds. A Quinnipiac University poll Aug. 29 revealed that American voters say, by 60 percent to 30 percent, that authorities should single out people who look “Middle Eastern” for security measures. Only 6 percent of Americans have a positive first impression of Muslims, according to a poll conducted last year for the Council on American Islamic Relations Research Center, and about 20 percent admit to being intolerant of Muslims.

Anecdotes also are plentiful. Taxi drivers of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent in Metro Detroit describe the scorn and derision of passengers, who sometimes holler epithets at them and refuse to pay fares.


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