The Muslim American Reality
September 7, 2006 (Last Updated: 10:14:05 PM) (WLS) -- A peak in hate crimes after nine eleven has not subsided; in fact according the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of incidents remains much higher than before 9-11.
These hate crimes are an added burden to Americans already made to feel like outsiders in their own country as we explore the lingering effects of misperceptions and misunderstanding in: The Muslim American Reality.
A simple game provides endless entertainment for father and son. It's what every parent wants for his children -- to be happy and feel safe. But since 9-11 Abbas Salmi feels his family's safety is in jeopardy.
"People who would say hello to you wouldn't say hello. People who you'd see walk past everyday would now give you a dirty look," said Salmi.
Kastem Salmi - the matriarch - left Jerusalem as a teenager in search of a better life. In the southwest suburbs, she raised a family and now grandchildren. She was sitting with her grandchildren in 2003, when a neighbor firebombed the family's van outside.
"I hear the bomb...the bomb is loud," Kastem Salmi said.
Eric Nix was convicted of a hate crime and sentenced to fifteen months in federal prison.
"This became our culture. This became our home and it was all taken away," said Abbas Salmi.
Anti-Islamic hate crimes dramatically increased after 9-11. Distrust combined with ignorance created an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous environment for Muslim Americans.
In the days after 9-11, angry mobs targeted the Bridgeview mosque. Police protected the mosque and worshippers but realized they needed to do more.
Federal officials started public meetings with Muslim American community leaders. Those meetings evolved into bimonthly roundtable discussions that continue today.
Chicago's FBI office has always had a voice in that discussion.
"Knowing your community in no longer just a law enforcement mission for a police officer, a commander and lieutenant, sergeant, or chief of police. It's a national security paramount now," said Rob Grant of the FBI.
Rob Grant is the FBI's Special Agent in Chicago. He says building relationships means residents have someone to come to, if they see a problem and it means Grant has contacts too.
"Having the ability to reach and talk to somebody on a first name basis and not introduce myself at the time of the crisis is really important," Grant said.
The FBI helped investigate the firebombing of the Salmi's van. Eventhough the case is settled, the family's unease continues. Like many Muslim American families, subtle forms of hate continue to be a part of everyday life.
They fear a stare or comment may lead to something more.
"If I hear something I'm scared now, I don't feel safe because every time is scared," Kastem Salmi said.
"You're surrounded by family and good neighbors and it could happen to anyone at any time," Abbas Salmi said.
The Salmi's have thought about leaving their neighborhood, but have decided to stand their ground. After the firebombing, they received an outpouring of support from most of their neighbors.
Coming up in our 9-11 special on Sunday, we'll look at the effect of the subtle forms of hate are having on Muslim woman.
Many who wear the distinctive head covering - called a hijab - are targeted for harassment. See how some are dealing with the attention.
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