Until recently, my father—a muslim—never fully realized how fundamentally the world had changed since 9/11. Though he saw the horrific attacks on TV and expressed sympathy for the victims and shock at the evil men can do, it didn't impact him personally. As a semiretired businessman residing in Hong Kong, my father maintains a routine of dropping by his office, meeting friends and fussing over his grandchildren. But a number of weeks ago he inadvertently stumbled into what some have mislabeled the clash of civilizations when he visited an old acquaintance, the Chinese owner of a high-end watch shop downtown. The proprietor had been grilled by London immigration on a trip to Europe, and he figured he knew who to blame. It's all because of you Muslims, he told my dad.The rebuke hardly rates as real religious harassment, but it's symptomatic of the cross, so to speak, that Muslims now bear: they are held collectively responsible by many non-Muslims for the sins of a lunatic fringe and are stereotyped as zealots because of their faith. As the world braces for war in the Persian Gulf, and the potential for retaliatory terrorist attacks keeps much of Asia on alert, TIME feels this special report chronicling the diversity of Islam as it's lived, practiced and celebrated in Asia is essential reading. We don't claim the collection of stories that follows is definitive, but we believe it accurately reflects the mood and spirit of Muslims in the region: angry, yes, but also hurt and sad and proud, struggling to maintain an identity in the face of globalization, and bravely struggling, in ways both big and small, to prevent their faith from being hijacked by hate. Above all, this report reminds us, these are fellow human beings just like you, or me, or my father.