As Reda Ragoui knelt to pray last Friday, his mind was swirling
with a host of conflicting emotions - gratitude, sadness, and a
sense of fear.
As he recited his prayers and pressed his forehead onto the soft
carpet of an Upper East Side mosque in Manhattan, he felt fortunate
to be alive. He had been only minutes from the World Trade Center
Tuesday morning, heading to a 10 a.m. business meeting on the 45th
floor of the north tower. Caught in the ensuing chaos, Mr. Ragoui
was one of the thousands who fled as the towers came crashing to
Yet even as he's thankful, Ragoui, like many Muslims across the
country, is gripped with an unsettling apprehension that he and
other immigrants from Islamic countries will become pariahs in
their own communities and the objects of mistrust and rage.
"It's so bad when people who live with you, who used to be your
friends, don't trust you," he says. "I mean, there is no trust to us
now, which affects us. It is not good for us."
Last week, sporadic acts of vandalism and anger directed at
Islamic communities sprang up in a host of US cities. Shards of
glass littered the ground in front of an Islamic center in Irving,
Texas, after a gunman sprayed dozens of bullets into its front
windows. Bricks, with scraps of anti-Muslim slurs, were heaved
through the windows of an Islamic bookstore in Alexandria, Va.
Police in Bridgeview, a suburb north of Chicago, blocked 300 people
marching toward a local mosque, waving US flags and chanting, "USA,
And several shooting deaths over the weekend - including one in
Mesa, Ariz. - are being investigated as bias-related.
Last week's terrorist attack came at a time when Muslim groups
were becoming a more visible and integrated part of American
society. The number of mosques in the US has increased 25 percent
in the past decade, and the average attendance at Jumah - the
Arabic word for Friday, the holy day of Islam - has increased more
than 300 percent, found the Mosque Study Project 2000. More and
more, mosques across the country are becoming involved in their
communities' social and political activities.
Indeed, today more than 6 million Muslims live in the US, and the
State Department expects Islam to become the second-largest faith
practiced in the country by 2010.
This visibility has been in New York for some time. The unease
that Muslims and Arabs now feel is in stark contrast to the normal
rhythms of the city, which has always pulsed with the sounds and
sights of cultures from lands across the globe.
This past weekend, familiar mosques in Brooklyn and Queens were
guarded by police, and extra officers were patrolling markets
usually frequented by shoppers dressed in the hijab, the veil worn
by some Muslim women. …