A Long Year for US Muslims

Tolerance and respect for ethnic and religious minorities are vital threads in the American fabric. For many Muslims and Americans of Middle Eastern background, these threads have frayed a bit in the past year.

The impulse to place collective blame for 9/11 on these groups has surfaced in acts of prejudice and, sometimes, violence. But that's not the whole picture.

There have also been acts of kindness and reassurance by Americans determined to show their Muslim neighbors or colleagues that they are welcome parts of the country's mosaic. Interfaith contacts have increased, and political and civic participation among Arab-Americans and Muslims has increased.

The question of racial profiling, however, remains pointed. Young men of Arab heritage, particularly, get heightened attention from airport inspectors and law enforcement officials. That's a sad fact of life in the current search for terrorist suspects. Those doing the searching must make every effort to be respectful.

At the same time, some Arab-Americans have noted that the reaction to 9/11 could have been much worse – and that people in their communities are being forced to better understand American rights and values and forge a loyalty to them.

A stronger sense of American community can emerge from this process, with yet another wave of immigrants – industrious and intelligent – finding peace and home on these shores.

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