Augusta Muslims say they face suspicion

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Heather Abdelnur's reaction to the deadly shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 wasn't all that different from her reaction to Sept. 11.

The same fears flashed through her mind. "As soon as I heard about this thing, I thought: 'Please don't let it be a Muslim. Please don't let him have a Muslim-sounding name."

It was, and he did.

The suspected shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, is an American-born Muslim. So is Mrs. Abdelnur, an assistant professor of history at Augusta State University.

"It was a letdown to find out a Muslim was involved," she said.

Muslim leaders were quick to condemn Maj. Hasan's actions, calling it "a black eye" upon Islam and its practitioners. Many said they feared retaliation; some increased security.

Retaliation against Muslims does occur -- Augusta's Imam has even taken to wearing a T-shirt and jeans out in public this week instead of his traditional tunic -- but Mrs. Abdelnur and others are quick to emphasize that experiences with discrimination vary widely among Muslims.

About three-quarters of American Muslims say they've never experienced discrimination, according to a survey of Muslim Americans released by the Pew Research Center in May 2007.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the Islamic Society of Augusta, the largest mosque in the area, was vandalized with graffiti directed at Osama bin Laden.

What gets less media attention is how members of the community sent money and flowers to the mosque upon hearing the news, said Hossam Fadel, a member of the mosque.

Dr. Fadel retired this summer as an obstetrician.

He's lived in Augusta for 35 years, working first for the Medical College of Georgia and later in private practice.

On the wall of his office he had hung a certificate recognizing completion of a pilgrimage to Mecca.

"Patients asked, but never in a bad way. They're curious," said Dr. Fadel, who was born in Egypt, but immigrated to the United States in 1970. "I've lived here for more than half my life. My kids were raised here, but sometimes you sense that people think I'm not a part of this community."

Discrimination happens, but it's often subtle, Dr. Fadel said, and he counts himself fortunate.

"It happens but it's not an everyday occurrence and it doesn't affect every individual equally," he said. "I haven't had a problem, but that's because my job has given me a privileged position. People won't come to a physician they don't trust."

Once, a few years ago, Dr. Fadel said an associate cautioned employees to keep an eye out for suspicious-looking characters.

"Obviously, I am in the category of suspicious looking. I am not a white, Caucasian male and it's easy for people to make mistakes," he said. "You want to look at how people act. There is a difference in how I look and how I act. It is suspicious behavior people should be on watch for."

Mrs. Abdelnur's attire usually invites at least one question from a student every semester.

She's a Boston native who converted to Islam, later marrying a Muslim from Sudan.

"I'm a soccer mom in a hijab. People don't know what to make of it," she said. "We're a mixed race, multicultural family. When people stare, my husband and I turn to each other and ask, 'Is it because you're black, or because I'm wearing a scarf?' "

On occasion, Mrs. Abdelnur finds books about Christianity in her mailbox.

"Being Muslim, it makes me a pretty easy target for anonymous mail, but that's about as sinister as it gets," she said.

"I've got some girlfriends who stopped wearing their scarves after 9/11. The discrimination is different for people," she said. "It matters how long you've been in the country. It matters how much exposure a person has had to American culture."

"There's not even a good word for what Muslims face," she said. "Anti-Semitism describes the problem. The best we've got is Islamophobia, and it almost sounds like a joke."

In the Pew Research study, Muslims ranked discrimination as the most important problem facing people of their faith. "Being viewed as a terrorist" came in second, followed by "ignorance about Islam."

They're very real concerns, even years after Sept. 11, said Imam Majed al-Sobke of the Islamic Society of Augusta. He typically wears a dishdasha, a long robe for men, but after he picked up on traces of suspicion at a coffee shop this week, he's now wearing T-shirt and jeans for a while.

"People are skeptical. They're scared," he said. "I understand. We cannot give an excuse or an alibi for Maj. Hasan's' wrong actions, but it's not right for all of us to pay for them."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.

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smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 01:36 am
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enough with the religion,

enough with the religion, already. do what you do in your own forum. i'm sick of it. most of the worlds problems exist because of religious differences. i mean, you've got people like jesse jackson, fathering illigitimate kids everywhere. what a fine reverend. i hear steve harvey on the radio, "god is so good", yet, he's touring the country with that foul-mouth katt williams. i'm sure god is really proud of him. he's probably laughing hysterically at their comedy act. muslim extremists are committing acts of terror in support of jihad. c'mon people, get a grip. i'm sick of it.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 11/12/09 - 02:03 am
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Every race, religion, sex,

Every race, religion, sex, etc. has some discrimination against them and for 75% of muslims in this country to state they have never been discriminated against in a country that has taken a lot from radical muslims actually speaks volumes for America as a country. Discrimination certainly is wrong however, we have gone way to far in the other direction of political correctness. Profiling is certainly a good tool for law enforcement but now it is considered "wrong" by so many as discrimination. Also, when you have situations such as muslim women refusing to remove her hijab for a drivers license photo or in a courtroom, again, this is going to far. Of course you can practice your religion but not to the point that is violates common sense and the laws of this land. Also, many groups experience this form of discrimination as discussed in the article for example, when a police officer uses excessive force, then for a while it is assumed, discuessed, etc. that all police officers are bad or use excessive force and the same goes for a priest molesting a child, a teacher having sex with a student, a black young male committing a violent crime, etc... it is just part of life.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 03:10 am
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WHY do muslims even want to

WHY do muslims even want to live in a country that they are SWORN to hate and destroy?What possible reason could they have?Could it be that they are waiting for their opportunity to serve allah by killing infidels?According to their beliefs,it is their DUTY to kill ALL people that are NOT muslim.

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 03:30 am
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It is not too late to accept

It is not too late to accept the word of Allah (PBUH) and save your eternal souls.

jsherrill
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jsherrill 11/12/09 - 03:31 am
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The distrust and

The distrust and discrimination placed against muslims is no different that that placed against Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. At least this time we are not rounding up muslims and placing them in camps. But, with the extremeist muslims and after 9/11, I believe that Americans have a right to be more cautious.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:13 am
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I wonder what would happen IF

I wonder what would happen IF a Christian yelled Jesus is Lord and slaughtered 13 muslims. Would there be an outpouring of sympathy for the Christian?Would there be excuses made for the actions of this Christian?Would the peace loving muslim nation retaliate or forgive this poor misguided soul?I wonder....

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:19 am
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abdulwahidmuhammed;Please

abdulwahidmuhammed;Please tell us what allah says about ANYONE that does not follow allah.

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 04:23 am
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They need to accept the

They need to accept the teachings of The Prophet (PBUH) otherwise they will be shown the truth.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:24 am
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what does allah instuct you

what does allah instuct you to do to non-muslims?

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:30 am
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Can't seem to be able to

Can't seem to be able to bring yourself to say that allah instructs you to kill all non-muslims?

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 04:33 am
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The infidels will learn the

The infidels will learn the truth.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:35 am
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You still have NOT answered

You still have NOT answered the question.What does allah instruct YOU to do to non-muslims?

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 04:37 am
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Allah's will shall be done.

Allah's will shall be done.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:38 am
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ANOTHER cowardly muslim

ANOTHER cowardly muslim

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:40 am
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MUST be ASHAMED of allah

MUST be ASHAMED of allah

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:48 am
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To ANY muslim;What does allah

To ANY muslim;What does allah instruct YOU to do to ALL non-muslims?

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 11/12/09 - 04:50 am
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wizzard...remember, this is

wizzard...remember, this is the on-line paper and this AbdulWhatchaMaCallit can pretend to be any character he wants to be. I would think if he were a true Muslim, he would've answered you. Since he's probably not a Muslim, he doesn't know the answers that you want to hear. I'm thinking "Abdul" is more than likely "AFool"!

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:51 am
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Me too

Me too

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:53 am
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Does anyone know what allah

Does anyone know what allah instructs his followers to do to non-muslims?

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 04:57 am
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They must accept the facts of

They must accept the facts of The Word of The Prophet (PBUH) as delivered to Him by Allah and recorded in The Glorious Qur'an or they will be shown the eternal truth. Then they will believe.

smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 04:59 am
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it's not like it's a secret,

it's not like it's a secret, wiz. the only people that don't know it are in control of your house and senate, and reside on pennsylvania avenue.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 04:59 am
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YOU still haven't said what

YOU still haven't said what allah tells YOU to do to non-muslims.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 05:01 am
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Those folks in DC KNOW,they

Those folks in DC KNOW,they are just lining their pockets before the &%#@ hits the fan.

55 F-100
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55 F-100 11/12/09 - 05:01 am
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Not all muslims are

Not all muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are muslims. The goals of muslims are to convert you to Islam, and failing that, to confine you (imprison you), or to kill you.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 05:04 am
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Did hasan ask those 13 he

Did hasan ask those 13 he killed to convert before killing them?

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 05:15 am
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It is soon time for morning

It is soon time for morning prayers (Salat al Fajr). Come to join us and learn the truth before it is too late.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 05:17 am
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If I don't want to kill all

If I don't want to kill all non-muslims,can I become a muslim?

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 05:21 am
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The desire is that all should

The desire is that all should accept The Word and teachings of The Prophet (PBUH) so we may all live together in peace.

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 05:21 am
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abdul;you can't seem to

abdul;you can't seem to answer ANY question.WHY is that?

wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 11/12/09 - 05:24 am
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Tell me a little about

Tell me a little about islam-I may want to convert.Enlighten me.

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