SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, proved to be a catalyst for increased political involvement by the Muslim community in the United States, according to the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in San Diego.
"In general, we have all come out of this stronger," Hanif Mohebi told City News Service. "I do pray the scape-goating after 9/11 is over."
He said it was painful to have to continually apologize for something he did not do.
"I personally feel, 'Why should I do this if I was in no way, shape, or form involved?"' Mohebi said. "I think most of the people in our community feel the same way."
Young Muslims in America have changed over the past 10 years, mostly in their political awareness, leading to the election of two Islamic members of Congress, he said in reference to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind.
Mohebi said he was driving his pickup truck from San Jose to a meeting in San Francisco when he learned of the attacks over the radio.
"I was obviously terrified and I turned around and missed the exit to my office -- I was so taken with this," Mohebi said. "It was a huge shock."
Americans in general understand that it was "bad apples" in the Islamic world who carried out the attack, but some people have made it their business to disparage Muslims, he said.
Babak Rahimi, an assistant professor of Iranian and Islamic Studies at UC San Diego, said he has suffered far more harassment in Europe, especially at airports, than in the United States.
"As an Iranian-American with a Muslim background, I have always felt safer and more respected in the U.S. than, say, in Europe, where I have been harassed by the police for simply waiting to catch a plane or riding a train," Rahimi wrote in an email to City News Service from Iran, where was traveling.
But he said he knows many Muslims who have suffered from prejudice in this country.
"In comparison to pre-9/11 period, I think we are safer since our government has become more alert to this problem (of terrorism)," Rahimi said. "Various government agencies have undergone major training to deal with the threat of militant Islamist groups, and that is why we have seen a number of potential attacks successfully detected and stopped."
Rahimi said al-Qaida failed in its goals because of its violent tactics, seen by Muslims as grotesque and not in keeping with their religion. The organization might have undid itself in Iraq, where it fomented sectarian violence that was rejected in a country where there are many intermarriages, he said.