September 1, 2006

Muslim leaders bemoan “Islamophobia” since 9/11

By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - American Muslims still face high levels
of hatred and suspicion nearly five years after the September
11 attacks and political leaders and the news media are mostly
to blame, Muslim leaders said on Friday.

"During the last five years the Muslim community has been
scrutinized by almost all branches of the government and the
media to the extent that more than half a million Muslims have
been directly touched by this process," said Abdul Malik
Mujahid, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of
Greater Chicago.

"They continue to face dehumanization and a great trend of
Islamophobia," he added, speaking to reporters at the start of
the annual meeting of the Islamic Society of North America, the
largest yearly gathering of U.S. and Canadian Muslims.

"The trends of Islamophobia unfortunately are worsening,"
he added, blaming "television driven by media makers" and
political leaders for the situation.

The September 11 attacks, planned by the al Qaeda group of
Osama bin Laden, were carried out by Islamic men flying
hijacked planes into the World Trade center in New York and the
Pentagon outside Washington.

Mujahid cited President George W. Bush's recent remark that
if terrorism is not beaten in Baghdad then Americans will have
to fight it in their own streets as a remark that casts
suspicions on Muslims in their own country.

Ingrid Mattson, newly elected president of ISNA and the
first woman to head the group, agreed about the continuing
level of problems faced by Muslims but said there was also a
growing level of education and understanding across "civil
society" that finds Muslim leaders sometimes hard pressed to
keep up with demands for speeches and other outreach

Hollywood and popular culture in general, she added, seem
to have done a better job of putting a human face on Muslim
adherents than the news media.