CINCINNATI (Reuters) – Tala Ali, 25, has seen the good and the bad of being a Muslim in heartland America. People have leaned out car windows to scream at her: “Terrorist go home.” But strangers curious about her headscarf have also approached her apologetically to ask about Islam.

“I love it, actually, when people ask me questions,” said the pink-scarved Ali, who came to the United States with her Jordanian father and Palestinian mother when she was five.

“Out here, I’m the only Muslim some people may meet,” said Ali, waiting for friends after Friday prayers at a Cincinnati mosque. “I always keep in mind that I’m an ambassador of Islam.”

For Ali and other Muslims who live far from America’s immigrant-rich big cities, everyday life is a test of tolerance and outreach to fellow Americans who view Islam with suspicion five years after the September 11 attacks and amid bleak and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The negative perception gets bigger by the day, despite all we do,” said Inayat Malik, a doctor and board member of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. . .

Karen Dabdoub fights constant brushfires in her work for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Ohio.

In 2005, a Cincinnati mosque was bombed. Fasting Muslim students were criticized in 2006 when they were allowed to avoid the cafeteria during Ramadan. Bomb threats and hate mail trickle in.

“We’ll get there. It’s not an easy road, but we’ll get there,” said Dabdoub, a native Cincinnatian who converted to Islam 16 years ago. But she admits things have gotten worse instead of better in recent years.


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