DEARBORN, United States (AFP) – During what should be a joyous time of fellowship, worship and reflection, many Muslims streamed into the Islamic Center of America on the first night of Ramadan with heavy hearts.

Sick of the suspicious glances, slurs and false accusations of being terrorists, they feel like second-class citizens in their own country.

“I feel comfortable at home but once I leave there, and leave my community, I feel like I’m in a whole different atmosphere right now,” 18-year-old Zeinab Zahreldin, a freshman at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, told AFP late Saturday. “It’s not at all comfortable.”

The Detroit area has around 200,000 Muslims and the suburb of Dearborn has one of the highest concentrations of Arab-Americans in the United States. Businesses here post Arabic signs, most restaurants serve Halal meat, and Arabs are prominent in local politics.

But five years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, it seems like a new reason for anxiety and alienation comes every week. Most recently, it was
Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks linking Islam to violence.

Before that was President George W. Bush’s use of the term Islamofacists. And then there were the local college students arrested as terrorists because they bought pre-paid cell phones.

“I have to pray real hard when I come to Ramadan, everything is so different now,” said Ali Almuna, an Iraqi immigrant who moved to the United States 11 years ago. “The way the people look at us and treat us. There’s a lot of discrimination. I’ve had bad language used toward me, my wife and kids. One day strangers called us terrorists. I didn’t say anything, I just thought that was so sad.”


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