American Muslims Live Under the "Specter of Suspicion"

September 8, 2006

Source: Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

On September 8, 2006 Religion and Ethics Newsweekly reported, "[I]t's a place best known for its surf and sand lifestyle, seemingly endless miles of suburban sprawl, and for being the home of that 'happiest place on earth,' Disneyland. However, Orange County is also a center of Islam, home to over 130,000 Muslim Americans, many of them immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia. It's a community which once felt largely secure and generally accepted. But like other Muslim enclaves in the United States that has changed in the five years since the Sept. 11 attacks, says Muzammil Siddiqi, an imam and director of the Islamic Society of Orange County.

'There are people who say, "I have been here thirty years, forty years. I was never afraid in America, but now I am. I am afraid of my children's future." So, yes, these concerns are there, genuine concerns,' [said Siddiqi.] Those concerns relate to Muslims' belief that they are still too often viewed with suspicion and even hostility by their fellow Americans. A recent Gallup poll reported that fewer than half of Americans -- 49 percent -- believed U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States. Muslim Americans also continue to worry about possible government monitoring of their community, from the surveillance of mosques to telephone taps.

Sadullah Khan, a South African-born Muslim scholar and imam in Orange County, echoes other Muslim Americans when he says he feels his civil liberties could be snatched away from him at any moment.

'I almost feel they could pick me today up for anything. They don't explain anything to you. If they pick me up today, there is nothing you can do about it. Nobody can do anything about it. It's like how it was in South Africa,' [said Khan.]"