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Anti-Islamic sentiment 'spreading across US' -

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As America debates the right of free speech and the merits of building a mosque near the site of
the 9/11 attacks, many American Muslims feel they are becoming targets.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: And as America debates the right of free speech and the merits of building a
mosque near the site of the September 11 attacks many American Muslims feel they are becoming
targets and that there is a growing tide of anti-Islamic sentiment.

North America correspondent Lisa Millar travelled to Dearborn, Michigan, which is described as
America's Islamic capital to gauge the mood.

LISA MILLAR: The sun sets on another day on the Ramadan calendar and hundreds of Muslims meet here
at Habib's to break their fast.

They celebrate their religion while worrying that more than ever it's under attack.

SHIRLEY ACCRA, AMERICAN MUSLIM: There's more hatred against the Arabs. The whole picture, it's we
are brown haired, brown eyes, you're terrorist.

MANAL HUSSEIN, AMERICAN MUSLIM: It's very said because a lot of the media is portraying our
religion, Islam, in a whole 'nother way.

CHARLES SHIBLEY, AMERICAN MUSLIM: We're being looked down upon because you have that belief, you
know, home values.

MARIAM SHIBLEY, AMERICAN MUSLIM: God forbid if somebody's Islam it's terrorism or to kill people.
It's not. I think a lot of arrogance is going on, that's what's happening.

LISA MILLAR: Dearborn is home to an estimated 30,000 American Muslims, drawn here in the middle of
last century by jobs in the car industry. It's described as America's Islamic capital.

New York City and the plans for a controversial mosque near Ground Zero may be 1,000 kilometres
away but they're feeling the hostility it's created.

The friction over the proposal has raised questions about America's broader attitude to Islam.

OSAMA SIBLANI, NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER: This week we have two, two important occasions - the September
7th and the September 11th.

LISAL MILLAR: Osama Siblani has been publishing the Arab American News for 26 years, a respected
voice whose opinion is sought by both sides of politics.

OSAMA SIBLANI: The attack on Islam has been growing since September 11 and it has reached a very
dangerous level.

LISA MILLAR: The paper's latest edition underlines his fears. He's convinced Islamophobia has been
fuelled by the presidential election almost two years ago.

OSAMA SIBLANI: You could see the rise of tension in America after they elected Barack Obama, Barack
Hussein Obama, to the presidency.

There was a calm feeling, silence, that silence at the beginning and then they started raising, you
know, the voice, the voice of unreason and the hate and the fear has been spread more and more.

LISA MILLAR: Opinion polls suggest one in five Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.

This is where Dearborn's Muslims turn for spiritual guidance, to the biggest mosque in North
America were late night sermons are held simultaneously in English and Arabic.

Imam, Hassan Qazwini wants to calm, not only his congregation, but the Americans who fear its
growing population.

IMAM HASSAN QAZWINI, ISLAMIC CENTRE OF AMERICA: Some people in this country who depicted as an
Islamic conquest as Islamicisation of the United States, as Muslims trying to dominate the United
States. Which we all know this are not true.

LISA MILLAR: He disagrees that this is a frightening trend, believing this latest bout of
Islamophobia isn't significant but rather the work of high profile Republicans.

HASSAN QAZWINI: Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, who have ambitions to run for presidency in 2012.

I believe they found it very convenient to use the Islamic, anti-Islamic sentiment to mobilise
people and to gain some strength.

LISA MILLAR: But those politicians have found fertile ground. The number of mosques in America has
grown to roughly 1,900. The Muslim population is estimated at 2.5 million.

national security and a lot of hate mongering going on, that if you were to replace the ethnicity,
if you were to say things that are being said about the Arab and Muslim community in the US, about
any other ethnic group we strongly feel that there would be a different reaction.

LISA MILLAR: But there haven't been reports of increased violence towards Muslim. Abed Ayoub,
though, says there is religious persecution.

ABED AYOUB: With the mosque issue we've seen how high of a level of a degree there is.

Which surprising through most of community members of Arabic community leaders, we did not believe
that there was this much Islamophobia happening.

LISA MILLAR: America's Muslims appear to lack a strong defender.

HASSAN QAZWANI: Probably this is one of our weaknesses as Muslims, that we do not have one
centralised leadership in the United States.

LISA MILLAR: But they blame the media for much of it. No matter how loudly they defend themselves
their message, that Islam isn't a religion of hate is drowned out.

While the negative attitude towards Islam here in the US hasn't reached the kinds of levels seen in
other countries Muslim leaders are worried it still could.

They're anxiously watching the midterm election campaign to see if targeting them becomes a winning
proposition for the conservatives and their supporters.

If the Republicans win...

HASSAN QAZWANI: God forbid...

LISA MILLAR: ... at the midterm elections, what message does that send?

HASSAN QAZWANI: It will be definitely disappointing.

LISA MILLAR: The high school football team is training for a new season.

Their religion is so important they practised for several weeks in the middle of the night to let
the team observe the Ramadan fast during the day and play after they'd eaten.

MOHAMED KAID, FOOTBALLER: Not too many know of Islam, you know. They think, you know, they give us
a rep that we don't really have you know.

I'm Muslim American you know, I'm Muslim before and I mean I'm American, Arab American you know and
I'm just, I love this country, you know, and I'm just following my religion. That's it. Like
everybody else is.

LISA MILLAR: This 17-year-old has heard that a growing number of American's apparently regard his
religion with suspicion but he's dismissive of fears it's become something more.

MOHAMED KAID: I don't believe that there's really Islamophobia you know. We're just like, we're
just here like everybody else following their own religion.

LISA MILLAR: And even those with a more pesimistic view are hopeful America can overcome any

OSAMA SIBLANI: This is a country that has lots of experience in discrimination and fighting
discrimination, in misunderstanding and understanding and it has a great mechanism of flushing out
its diseases.

IMAM HASSAN QAZWINI: I believe if we Muslims do our share and do our homework and we try harder to
educate Americans about our faith, I believe Americans will no longer associate Islam with

LISA MILLAR: Those spearheading the anti-Muslim sentiment declined to speak to Lateline but some
observers suggest their argument will only grow in strength as America continues to struggle with
its history.