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Area Muslim leaders working with federal officials
August 11, 2006

By Leah Hope

See Video

Opinions are divided in the Chicago-area's Muslim community about the impact of the terror plot arrests. Some fear a backlash. Others are more hopeful.

Comments made by President Bush Thursday have upset some local Muslim-Americans. They say fear can build on misconceptions. But there is an avenue for understanding already forged between federal officials and local leaders.

Friday prayers at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview draw hundreds of Muslims. Since 9/11, many Muslim-Americans have endured ridicule, abuses even hate crimes. While there is concern about a possible backlash after an apparent terror plot in England, some see this as an opportunity.

"Another opportunity for us to reach out and open the discussion," said Aisheh Said, Chicago Roundtable participant.

Aisheh Said is among the community leaders involved in the Chicago Roundtable Discussion. It is a regular meeting of Muslim-Americans leaders and federal officials, including the FBI's special agent in charge.

ABC7 spoke with Rob Grant last week about the importance including community in law enforcement.

"It's just not a police responsibility, it's also a local political responsibility to know their communities, understand their communities and be sensitive to things around the world that may affect them that would not affect the rest of us," said Grant.

Community leaders say the discussions build relationships that are good for everyone. Ahmed Rehab is the executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago.

"The American Islamic community is proud to be American as it is proud to be Muslim and we recognize the responsibility of working with governmental agencies in making this country safe and secure for all," said Rehab.

The roundtable discussions deal with a variety of issues including delays in citizenship, treatment of Muslims at airport checkpoint and security. The Mosque Foundation's president says the discussions increase awareness and sensitivities.

"Four out of 10 Americans have negative views against Muslims, and that's why we have to have good relationship with our law enforcement agencies because we need to protect our community," said Dr. Mohammed Sahloul, Mosque Foundation.

The roundtable meets every two months and it set to meet in a couple of weeks. Among the discussion is the fall out after the British arrests.

Those involved feel the roundtable has been a step in the right direction and there is an effort to bring the type of roundtable to the national stage.

Copyright ©2006 ABC Inc., WLS-TV Chicago

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