Here, in the city with the highest concentration of Arabs in North America, residents are tired of the “terrorist” stereotyping they have attracted in the decade since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They are upset with bin Laden for discrediting them by association and also disappointed by their treatment from fellow Americans. They’re ready to move on.
“He hijacked our religion,” said Wassim Mahfouz, executive director of the Lebanese American Heritage Club in Dearborn. “He put us in a corner where we always have to defend ourselves and our citizenship and our loyalty to this country. We hate him because of what he did to us as Muslims.”
“I’m very happy. Everybody’s happy. I wish now that we don’t have any more problems,” she said, though she noted that some people were surprised by her reaction to bin Laden’s death at the hands of American commandos.
“They ask me about Osama bin Laden. I tell them I’m happy. They say, ‘Why are you happy?’ Because he’s a terrorist. He’s given the Muslim people a bad name,” she explained.
American Muslims say bin Laden never represented their religion. Just as Christianity is split into denominations such as Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist and so on, Mr. Mahfouz said, Islam contains different sects, though he said bin Laden would be the equivalent of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church that pickets soldiers’ funerals.
“People think Muslims. Period,” Mr. Mahfouz said. “But this guy created his own religion.”
Many Muslims also see bin Laden as not being a religious person, saying he was not particularly devout until he realized he could use the name of Islam to promote his grievances against the Saudi government and the U.S. presence in the Middle East.
“People questioned whether he was a true Muslim,” said Kassem Allie, executive administrator of the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America.
Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said he and other Arabs felt a “shadow of suspicion” cast around them after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that they say led to them “being guilty until you are proven innocent, and not the other way around.”
“That created a wedge, and so many fellow Americans began looking at us differently and questioning our loyalty,” he said.
Mere names could be enough to excite suspicion, Mr. Hamad said, going on to point out that many Arabs aren’t Muslim but share the same names. “Lots of Christians in the Arab world are named ‘Osama.’ “
Mr. Allie said his family has been here since the 1890s but has had to “start from scratch again trying to re-establish ourselves.”
“The thing that really troubled me after 9/11 was the fact that my children would probably have it tougher than I do,” he said. “We’ve tried all our lives to be good Americans.”View Entire Story
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Tim Devaney is a national reporter who covers business and international trade for The Washington Times. Previously, he worked for the Detroit News, Grand Rapids Press, Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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