Backlash: As American As...

Although scapegoated, Muslims, Sikhs and Arabs are patriotic, integrated--and growing

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But 14 years later, Haddad reports, Islamist sympathy is below 10%. What happened? The new immigrants became more comfortable with the language and the culture around them. They realized that unlike many of their homelands, one could express political or cultural opposition here and still be regarded as a good American. And finally, they gave birth to a generation, now in its 20s and 30s, whose primary identification is American, albeit with a "Muslim" prefix. "The feeling is," paraphrases Haddad (who is not Muslim), "'We are American. We participate in this America. We cannot live off America and not be part of it, and we have something to contribute.'"

The burning issues in the average Muslim-American household are far less likely to be political than fairly standard sitcom fodder. A child refuses to wear a hijab. A mother suddenly realizes that despite the prohibition on premarital dating in most Muslim households, her daughter's "good friend" is really a boyfriend. A married couple notes bemusedly that while they attend mosque only once a month, or possibly twice a year, their college-age son, like many of his peers, seems to be returning to religious observance. Meanwhile, in his dorm room, that son is plying the Web in service of a human-rights organization, protesting American policies regarding Kashmir or Palestine or even Kabul--from within the American system.

That is not to say there may not be a tiny minority of mosques in America whose congregants tilt toward the Taliban or even bin Laden. At the Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque in Queens, after the imam decried the World Trade attack to his 1,000-person congregation, members of the Taliban's Pashtun clan moved to the basement in apparent protest.

Omar Abdel Rahman, the jailed ringleader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, used to preach at the Masjid al-Salaam mosque in Jersey City, N.J. The day after the recent terror, two men arrested on a train in Dallas with box cutters, hair dye and more than $5,000 in cash are reported to have worshiped there recently. Two cops now stand at the mosque door.

Two days before the attack, Moataz al-Hallak, the former imam at the Center Street mosque in Arlington, Texas, returned there to pray. It turns out that al-Hallak was close to Wadih el-Hage, bin Laden's secretary who was recently found guilty in the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa. Al-Hallak's name also reportedly showed up on a list at a Brooklyn refugee center headed by several men convicted in the 1993 Trade Center bombing. Al-Hallak, who has not been charged in either World Trade plot, has denied connection to bin Laden and claims to have counseled el-Hage only on religious matters. Najam Khan, president of the group that runs the Arlington mosque, says it fired al-Hallak last year for neglecting his flock--before the bin Laden connections were known. "I don't think he was preaching violence per se," Khan says, looking mournful. "We feel this mosque is being targeted because of individuals who may have had shady business somewhere, but that has nothing to do with the mosque and the rest of the community." He says the imam never talked politics from the pulpit: "It doesn't make sense. No mosque wants that. It divides people."

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