'Islamophobia' Felt 5 Years After 9/11

ByABC News via logo
September 9, 2006, 8:30 AM

Sept. 9, 2006 — -- Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslims and Arab Americans say they still feel the sting of discrimination and fear in America.

"The first thing that comes to my mind [on 9/11], you know, before anyone said anything about this: I hope that Arabs have nothing to do with this," said Osama Siblani, publisher of the weekly Arab-American News, based in Dearborn, Mich.

Siblani was on his way to work when he first heard about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

By the time he arrived at his office, news began to circulate that Arabs carried out the attacks.

And soon came the shocking images of Muslims, like these living in the occupied territories, celebrating.

Then the phone calls to Siblani's paper began.

"There are some nasty ones -- nasty, very nasty, foul language," he said. "That night, right here, three guys were arrested with knives. Not small knives. They were coming to kill me."

Last month, almost five years since the attacks, two young Lebanese-American men from Dearborn -- Osama Abulhassan and Ali Houssaiky -- were stopped by police in Marietta, Ohio.

"They searched the car," Houssaiky said. "They found $10,000 in cash and 12 cell phones."

"I called the detective over and I told him, 'What's the problem?'" Abulhassan said. "We're just buying and reselling them."

The police were unconvinced. The two men were arrested on charges of money laundering in support of terrorism and were jailed for a week.

"I'm innocent. You guys are just being racist!" Houssaiky said.

"We were going crazy," Abulhassan said, "asking each other the same questions over and over: What are we doing here?"

Houssaiky thinks the incident happened because of racial profiling.

The terrorism charges were later dropped, but they still face misdemeanor charges for falsification of information to police.