He barely winces when obscenities are hurled his way, shrugging at occasional threats.

“What do you expect? You’re not working with angels,” says Rame Abdeljaber, a Lake County Sheriff correctional officer, referring to some unruly inmates.

Other name-calling stings, though.

“Before, everybody was holding in their negative feelings against Muslims,” says Abdeljaber, a practicing Muslim who uses a garbage bag and part of a cardboard box as a makeshift prayer rug for some of his five daily prayers at work. “After 9/11, everything became more public. I hear it all the time.”

Sleeper cell. Bin Laden sympathizer. Name-callers are never at a loss for words.

Even when he donned U.S. Army fatigues required for a military science class at Western Illinois University days after 9/11, a passing student yelled, “Whose side are you fighting on?” Another said, “Why are you wearing a uniform?”

“It doesn’t matter what you tell them, they don’t believe you,” says Abdeljaber, 28.

Abdeljaber’s maternal grandfather, a Palestinian hat manufacturer and restaurateur, emigrated to Chicago in the early 1900s but moved back to his native West Bank. Then his parents settled in Waukegan in the early 1970s, opening a convenience store.

Both of Abdeljaber’s brothers work in the family business. His two sisters also married convenience store owners. But Abdeljaber, the youngest and most devout, wanted to do “something different.” He had hopes of joining the National Guard, but when his father died months after 9/11, Abdeljaber quit school, earning his degree in criminal justice later. (MORE)


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