- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

DEARBORN, Mich. It is a daily event at La Pita, a Middle Eastern restaurant on this city's west side: eight or more men of Arab ancestry in heated discussion of American foreign policy.
Their conversation floats over the scents of roasting lamb and sage and the chatter of La Pita's mostly Arab patrons.
The group talks of their respective home countries, the United States and the Middle East. Since Sept. 11, their discussion has focused on the war against terrorism now being waged in Afghanistan, an action that draws unanimous but tentative support.
"I support the American efforts, but it depends on what we do after we are done there in Afghanistan," said Tim Attalla, a 42-year-old lawyer and first-generation American whose Palestinian parents came to the United States in 1950.
Americans, he said, do not understand the intricacies of the Middle East nor do they comprehend the significance of the current battle in Afghanistan.
"If you talk to Middle Easterners, you will find that they are eager to be the ally of the United States," Mr. Attalla said. "But they need to know that there has to be some kind of peace afterwards, or else there will be more trouble."
Hussein Shamaut, a consulting manager who came to the United States from Lebanon, said: "The one thing that we don't want to do is end up as we did with Iraq, leaving Saddam [Hussein] in power, having more to do. We have to do something about bin Laden now."
He adds, "Until we can get a U.N. vote on a resolution there, for postwar Afghanistan, I think most of us will be wondering about the action."
The group that gathers at the eatery are Muslims and Christians, from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, Democrat, Republican and independent.
They concur that the Taliban is a "cult," that Detroit is a "magnet to the Arab world" and that the media has overreported incidents of harassment to people of Middle Eastern heritage.
They abhor the fact that a radical Muslim has hijacked the religion that many of them practice.
They refer to themselves as "above all, Americans."
And they are good-natured about the subject of their nationality.
"We are a think tank," said Mr. Attalla with a wide smile. He and his friends, who range widely in age, talk heatedly, frequently interrupting each other between gulps of Arabian coffee.
"But we aren't recognized as a think tank," said Kassem Chammout, the Lebanese owner of La Pita. "I'm not even sure we all know what we're talking about."
Most of them have raised families in southeast Michigan, a region that is home to an estimated 350,000 Arabs, the largest concentration in the world outside of the Middle East.
Arab immigrants began to arrive in the area in the late 1930s to work in Ford's River Rouge auto plant.
They left the Middle East for "Dearborn, America," as it became known in their homelands. The immigrants settled in this community of 100,000, many eventually moving to other nearby suburbs.
In coffeehouses, in restaurants and in markets, the talk is of the war and how it should be dealt with.
The sentiment is almost unanimous in support of the United States and its newest war.
"Bomb them, bomb them, bomb them," said Noah Ayoub, a 27-year-old Islamic man walking from a local fruit market, clad in a Tommy Hilfiger shirt, and holding the arm of his elderly mother, Fay. "We will not let anyone take out [American] people like that without retaliation."
Inside the market, Jeff Youssef, a well-dressed father of four, speaks between intermittent calls on his cell phone.
Mr. Youssef spoke no English when he came to America from war-torn Lebanon in 1980 at age 19.
Even though he agrees that military action against terrorism is necessary, Mr. Youssef is still put off by the war now raging in Afghanistan. He grew up in war, he said.
"When I was supposed to be meeting girls and deciding where I wanted to go to college, I had to learn where to go to be safe. War doesn't benefit anybody."

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