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With well over a billion followers across the globe, Islam is the world’s second largest religion.

The number of Muslims in this country is somewhat unclear. Studies place it anywhere from one to six million. Whatever the figure, a growing number live in southwestern Virginia. They’re trying to blend their Islamic faith and culture in a country still dealing with the impact of 911.

Hundreds of Muslims live in the New River Valley. They include Hesham Rakha. He’s an engineering professor at Virginia Tech. However, he spends a lot of time teaching something else outside of class.

Faycel and Autumn Beji are trying to pursue their American dream. They have three business partnerships in the New River Valley. But as they run their business and their lives, they face the lingering effects of 911. Autumn grew up Christian, then converted to Islam four years ago, so she’s seen things from both sides.

It’s something Steve Salaita has noticed. He’s a Virginia Tech professor who’s authored a book on racism. Salaita is Bluefield-born Christian Arab. He says the acts of kindness toward Arabs and Muslims in this region far outnumber the acts of hostility.

Younger generations of Muslim-Americans hope for a future of greater acceptance and understanding.


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