Muslims Face Hatred, Curiosity in U.S. Heartland

February 11, 2007

Author: Andrea Hopkins

Source: The Boston Globe

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Tala Ali, 25, has seen the good and the bad of being a Muslim in heartland America. People have leaned out car windows to scream at her: "Terrorist go home." But strangers curious about her headscarf have also approached her apologetically to ask about Islam.

"I love it, actually, when people ask me questions," said the pink-scarved Ali, who came to the United States with her Jordanian father and Palestinian mother when she was five.

"Out here, I'm the only Muslim some people may meet," said Ali, waiting for friends after Friday prayers at a Cincinnati mosque. "I always keep in mind that I'm an ambassador of Islam."

For Ali and other Muslims who live far from America's immigrant-rich big cities, everyday life is a test of tolerance and outreach to fellow Americans who view Islam with suspicion five years after the September 11 attacks and amid bleak and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The negative perception gets bigger by the day, despite all we do," said Inayat Malik, a doctor and board member of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.