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Arab-Americans concerned about treatment

One quarter of adults in Dearborn, Michigan, are Arab-American -- including many who follow Islamic customs.  

By Candy Crowley
CNN Senior Political Correspondent

(CNN) -- Dearborn, Michigan, is a fairly typical American city. The Detroit suburb is the home to minivans and mini-malls, bakeries and ballparks.

These days, like so many other U.S. cities, it is also full of flags and sadness.

But the sadness in this hometown of Henry Ford has taken on deeper resonance. Dearborn is also the home to a large Arab-American population. One in four adults in this city of 91,000 is Arab-American; 58 percent of the children are Arab-American.

CNN's Candy Crowley looks at the life of Arab-Americans in one U.S. city (October 25)

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And these citizens find themselves victimized in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The day after the attacks, said resident Jad Jadallah, his wife was out driving. Like a number of Muslim women, she was wearing a head scarf.

"Somebody rolled down the window and said, 'You bastard,'" Jadallah recalled.

"I feel hurt. My family is targeted. My bigger family is losing thousands of people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And I am not given the chance to prove that I am an American, too."

Targets of suspicion

It hasn't been easy for many Arab-Americans. Despite calls for calm and respect from figures including President Bush, Arab-Americans -- or even people with Middle Eastern appearances -- have been targeted.

There have been incidents of Arab-Americans removed from planes because of fears expressed by other passengers. And one man, a Sikh convenience store owner in Mesa, Arizona, was killed September 15 by an angry bar patron upset by the terrorist attacks.

Suspicion of people of Middle Eastern ancestry hasn't let up. In a CNN-USA Today Gallup poll conducted October 19-21, respondents were split 49-49 on whether to require Arabs in the United States to carry a special ID card.

Dearborn residents are concerned.

Jad Jadallah says his wife was targeted when a passer-by called her a "bastard."  

"We always heard about how this country was built on (the idea of people) not to be discriminated against because of their religion or race or ethnic background," says Hussein Siblini. "But this was talk. You feel when it comes to action, you feel that it wasn't there."

'Am I really an American?'

Dearborn Islamic religious leaders have expressed outrage at the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"We would like to do anything to express our feeling that we are against terrorists and terrorism activities," says Imam Mohamad Musa, the head of a local mosque.

A Dearborn resident asks "When do I become an American?"  

But treatment of Arab-Americans since that day has left many wondering.

Three students at a Dearborn high school, all American-born, recently went to a resort area with a Boy Scout leader. When someone complained about suspicious behavior, they were pulled over by the police.

That sort of treatment "kind of rings a question in my head: Am I really an American or am I not?" said one of the boys. "It is kind of hard to think about. Do I have the same rights as an American-born (citizen) or do I have different ones because I am an American Arab?"

That's a question even older Dearborn residents are asking.

At one gathering, a longtime Dearborn resident and retired firefighter reeled off his bona fides: His grandfather came to America more than 100 years ago. He was a military veteran, as was his brother. And yet, he said, he was still trying to find his "rightful place in America."

"When do I become an American?" he asked.


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