Omar Alomari has experienced oppression firsthand.
Born in Jerusalem, he grew up in Jordan when that country's monarchy was decidedly more dictatorial.
"It was absolutely brutal," Alomari said. "There is no freedom whatsoever."
His father worked in the oil business, then the army. His mother was a homemaker. He had three sisters and two brothers. It was from this typical Middle Eastern family, conservative and religious, that he came to the United States as an immigrant in 1979 to attend graduate school at Ohio State University.
Alomari taught the Arabic language and Middle Eastern culture at Ohio State. He continues to teach courses on world religions and global cultures at Ohio State and Franklin University.
All this helps qualify Alomari, 56, for his year-old job as multicultural relations officer for Ohio Homeland Security.
He's responsible for building relationships between the state's anti-terrorism efforts and its Arab and Muslim communities.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, Arabs and Muslims in this country became the "usual suspects," Alomari said.
They became isolated out of fear of a backlash from the attacks. The alienation led to misperceptions about their culture and religion, and questions about their loyalty to America. . .
Later this month, the state plans to conduct a survey of the Arab and Muslim communities asking about their lives, perceptions, issues and concerns.
These are efforts supported by Adnan Mirza, director of the Columbus office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"By opening dialogue and creating mutual understanding, we can educate law enforcement about our community and in turn law enforcement can educate us about how we can help them with the war on terror," Mirza said.
"If people had a better understanding of what we believe and how we practice our faith, I think a lot of those concerns could be minimized," he said.