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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
US Muslims fight 9/11 backlash
The BBC's Michael Buchanan
By Michael Buchanan
BBC correspondent in Dearborn, Michigan

The Greenfield cafe lies just off Warren Avenue, a long wide road, with as many signs in Arabic as in English.

Muslim women at a vigil in Dearborn, Michigan, for the 11 September victims
Dearborn's Muslim have been subject to new scrutiny
The shops seem to sell everything that a Middle Eastern immigrant could want to feel at home - halal meat, pastries, hookah pipes and even books - which is as it should be since Dearborn is home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the United States.

No-one here had anything to do with the 11 September attacks, but two years on the events of that fateful morning have energised many in the community who feel that they need not to defend Islam, but to explain it.

Over a meal of spicy potatoes, fattouche and shish kebab, washed down with Lebanese cocktails I met five young Muslims who live in Dearborn and whose attitudes to life have been changed in various ways since Mohammed Atta and his henchmen killed more than 3,000 people.

Need to explain

Ibrahim Kadiri, 20, expresses the overwhelming sentiment of the group: Tall and shy he nevertheless gets passionate when he talks about what happened on 11 September, 2001.

Because of a few individuals we were all painted with the same negative brush. That was a horrible experience
Farhan Latif

"It represented some grave atrocities that were committed against innocent people, and as a Muslim I am totally against any atrocities," he said.

The mission to explain the Muslim religion is most strongly felt by Mariam Abbas, 22 and Killoud Dabaja, 24.

Just because she is an American citizen, and therefore protected from the worst excesses of the anti-terror legislation that been introduced in the US, says the fast talking Mariam, that doesn't mean she can rest easy.

"My religion teaches me to look at the broader picture, in the end hopefully I'll benefit and my children and grandchildren will benefit if we can create a more tolerant and understanding society," she said.

Farhan Latif
As a Pakistani, Farhan is subject to strict immigrant controls

"What happened on 11 September wasn't me, but I am that religion," adds Killoud, barely audible over the din of the other diners.

"I am the Taleban woman that everyone sees, but I am not that and people need to know that I'm not that - that isn't what Islam is, so I need to go out there and show people."

Farhan Latif agrees, but views the world through slightly different eyes, a tall, slim man with swept back hair, he is a Pakistani student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Human loss

Like thousands of other young men from the Middle East and South Asia, Farhan had to register his presence in the US with the immigration authorities, have his photo and fingerprints taken and give out his credit card numbers.

"Each aspect of my lifestyle has prompted explanation from how I live to what I believe in," says Farhan. "Because of a few individuals we were all painted with the same negative brush. That was a horrible experience."

Picking at the spicy potatoes Ali Hassan Dabaja, a confident 22-year-old with a goatee beard, says the attacks in New York and Washington were a tragic waste of life.

Ali Dabaja
Ali says the Bush administration is using the attacks to push its own agenda

But what compounds the human loss says Ali is "how people today are using it to their advantage, such as this administration in the US".

"It has been unjustly used to push agendas, such as the war on terror, and that affects Muslims as we have Muslims brethren in areas such as South Asia, south-east Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and my heart goes out to them and their suffering."

All five are determined to ensure that any suffering, at least in their own community, comes to an end soon. They are articulate, passionate, intelligent and energetic - just the type of people Muslim-Americans need in order to have their voices heard.

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