BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK
US Muslims hurt by backlash
Diana Breedlove and her Muslim neighbour Norma Tarazi
Religious threats led these women to become friends


"The first thing that went through my head was 'Oh God, please don't let it be an American-Muslim'. Then I packed my bags ready for war."

It was a natural reaction for Mahmood El-Yousseph after the 11 September attacks.

After every terrorist attack - like the Oklahoma bombing - Muslims in America expect to be attacked or threatened.

"One day after, we got a bomb threat at home - even though I'd condemned the attack in the local paper," said Mr El-Yousseph. "The question that went through my mind was: Why are they doing this?"

Mr El-Yousseph is among an estimated seven million Muslims in America.

Air National Guards reservist Mahmood El-Yousseph
Mahmood El-Yousseph is devoted to protecting the US
The attacks left him feeling that his country was violated and some members of his community made him feel just as bad.

He is not alone.

I heard the nasty Islamophobic abusive death threats received by the Islamic Foundation in Columbus, Ohio - from a caller claiming to be Christian.

In Westerville, a quiet suburb, almost every house on Mr El-Yousseph's street has a star spangled banner dangling from the front. But not his.

Mr El-Yousseph has lived in America for a quarter of a century and has been a reserve in the Air National Guards for 19 years.

He does not feel he has to fly a flag to prove his patriotism for his adopted home. He is ready to die for it.

Yet according to the Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy and civil rights group, patriotism and loyalty are key questions at the moment.

Laws blamed

A survey by CAIR suggests 57% of American Muslims have experienced bias or discrimination since the attacks. Furthermore, 87% of those who took part say they know of a fellow Muslim who experienced discrimination.

CAIR believes that new laws - introduced as part of President Bush's "war on terrorism" - are partly to blame.

Last October the US Patriot Act was made law. CAIR says it gives the authorities the power to carry out surveillance without probable cause.

There is racial profiling, where people can be stopped and searched simply because of their skin colour, appearance, clothing and name.

And then there is the mass questioning of Muslims throughout the US.


Why would they ask us to prove our patriotism and support for the United States? No other religious group or ethnic group was asked to do that

Jad Humeidan
The BBC World Service programme Analysis has been given unique access to a taped interview between the FBI and a leading Muslim campaigner questioned simply because he had a pilot's licence.

Nine days after the terrorist attacks, the executive director of CAIR in Ohio, Jad Humeidan, was quizzed for almost 30 minutes about his flying activities, employment and family.

The 28-year-old believes it is the only tape in existence in the world that proves that the authorities were on a fishing expedition.

His interview was carried out in the presence of his lawyer and permission was given to record it.

"They tried to basically spread a dragnet and see how many people they can fish out," he said.

Thousands questioned

CAIR says thousands of Muslims have been questioned and no one has been charged with links to terrorism. Yet hundreds, says the group, have been deported on minor immigration matters.

During the interview the FBI agents say they are questioning Muslims who have received training to become pilots.

"We're running down literally hundreds of thousands of leads of every nature and source," they say.

"These leads run from talking to everybody who went to the aeronautical institute where the hijackers were receiving training to talking to an 85-year-old woman hard of hearing, who thinks that someone's trying to fly a helicopter into her house. It runs the gamut."

CAIR campaigner Jad Humeidan
Jad Humeidan was questioned by the FBI for having a pilot's licence
Mr Humeidan is heard being questioned persistently about why he applied for certain jobs and why he left them.

Mr Humeidan tells 'Analysis' that he felt "disgusted" and "violated" that the authorities checked into his background just because he is a Muslim.

"I'm an American. I'm very patriotic and care for this country. As I told the FBI agents we felt violated that day and we would not want to support something like that."

"Why would they ask us to prove our patriotism and support for the United States? No other religious group or ethnic group was asked to do that."

The BBC has approached the FBI to comment on the claims being made in the programme but so far there has been no response.

Retaliation

Radio talk shows are said to reflect the mood of a town, city or nation.

Carla 'The Cat' Wren has a three-hour show on Saturdays for 610 WTVN in Columbus.

As she speaks to me, Ms Wren suppresses the tears that begin to well up in her eyes.

"I wanted to retaliate against whoever did this, whether it be Osama Bin Laden, whether it be Iraq, Iran, Syria. I wanted to get them back for what they did to us. I still do."

Does this shape her opinions of Muslims?

"Sure it does," she says. "Anyone who says not is a liar."


Let me see them (Muslims) outside the mosques carrying the American flag, marching and denouncing what's happened

Carla Wren
Ms Wren admits she does not trust Muslims. In her opinion they do not answer her questions straight forwardly enough.

Asked if they had to continue to prove their loyalty everyday she replies candidly: "For a while, sure they do. For how long? I don't know.

"We've been attacked. Let me see them (Muslims) outside the mosques carrying the American flag, marching and denouncing what's happened. Let them come out and say we don't believe in parts of the Koran.

"Prove it - actions speak louder than words."

But not everyone thinks this way.

Before the attacks Norma Tarazi and her neigbour Diana Breedlove had barely spoken. Now they chat whenever time allows.

Mrs Tarazi, a white woman who converted to Islam, wears a hijab or headscarf.

She teaches at Columbus' only private Islamic school and on 11 September police were called to evacuate the school. Young children were weeping, not wanting to go outside, scared they would be shot.

Kindness and support

As the teacher was driving home, a motorist on the opposite side veered into her lane, avoiding a crash at the last moment. It left her shaken.

"I spent the next few days inside the house. I was too scared to go out."

It was then that Mrs Breedlove popped across the road and left some home-grown tomatoes with Norma Tarazi's son.

"I was really touched and I finally felt at home," says Mrs Tarazi. "It gave me a lot of courage to go out and get back to normal."

CAIR's survey suggests 79% of US Muslims experienced kindness or support from friends or colleagues of other faiths.

There were even offers to help guard local mosques during the anti-Muslim backlash following the terrorist attacks.

These acts of kindness give American Muslims hope - perhaps more people are realising that no one should regard the actions of an awful minority as representative of the true majority, who are patriots.


Barnie Choudhury's full report for Analysis was broadcast on the BBC's World Service on 10 September 2002. You can hear the report by clicking on the link at the top of this page.


New York despatches

IN DEPTH

TALKING POINT

FORUM

INTERNET LINKS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

05 Sep 02 | Americas
31 Aug 02 | Americas
12 Aug 02 | Islamic world
23 Jul 02 | Americas
26 Jun 02 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes