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Muslim Community Reacts To Scrutiny
August 10, 2006

By Jon Duncanson

See Video

(CBS) CHICAGO When the threat-level of terrorism rises, many members of the Muslim community become uneasy.

Many Muslims feel that because the plotters purport to be Islamic, all Muslims face targeted scrutiny.

CBS 2's Jon Duncanson reports on a Chicago neighborhood where anxiety increases along with the national threat level.

On Devon Avenue, both Indians and Pakistanis live and mix in relative peace, even though their home countries are often at some level of war.

It’s a place where an Indiana Sikh will speak of a terrorist plotter and not blame his Pakistani Muslim neighbor.

“They are terrorists. They are not Muslims. They don't have no religion,” said one man.

But the many Muslims on Devon feel like targets nonetheless.

Naseem Sarwar has a bookstore with Urdu writing on the sign above, the national language of Pakistan. His store has been ransacked with nothing stolen twice.

“I've been victimized. It happened. Two times my store has been broken,” said Sarwar.

Christopher Helt is an adjunct professor of immigration studies at Loyola. He also runs a law office on Devon and has defended Muslim men rounded up by authorities after 9/11 just because they were Muslim.

“You're under suspicion if you're Muslim, and that's really unfair. It’s unfortunate and unfair,” Helt said.

For [Ahmed] Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, every terror incident of warning has its predictable outcome for 400,000 Chicagoland Muslims.

“Every time this happens and breaks out in the news, our community is definitely targeted for bigotry, discrimination, and so the backlash is very real,” Rehab said.

Back on Devon Street, life goes on with a South Asian flavor. But when terror strikes, people here say it’s the Pakistanis and the Muslims who feel the heat.

“You don't have the same type of racial profiling as you do against people from Pakistan. It’s yet another unfortunate circumstance. A lot of it's just based on ignorance,” said Helt.

Many from the Muslim community said they feel the problem they face in being targeted comes from media commentators of the extreme right wing and internet bloggers, who – they feel – paint all Muslims with the brush used to portray so-called Islamic extremists. They are tired of it and are trying to get out from under that portrayal. But every time something like this happens, it's hard to be a Muslim American.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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