September 14th, 2007 10:57 EST
NON-MUSLIMS TO SHARE RAMADAN
Arsalan Bukhari loves to visit Canada, but rarely does because he doesn't like waiting for hours while officers search his belongings. Some of his buddies with coveted jobs at Microsoft can't make connecting flights because airport security stops them for questioning.
"I personally feel violated when they go through my car and my backpack," said Bukhari, a Muslim. "We're painted against these crazy, angry guys living on the fringe."
Bukhari's sentiments come at a time of growing fear in the community of Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans and people of South Asian heritage. That fear was stoked even more last month when federal authorities released photographs of two men, apparently of Middle Eastern descent, who authorities said were acting suspiciously aboard Washington State Ferries.
Now members of the community are fighting back -- with politeness.
Bukhari and others from the Council on American-Islamic Relations are hosting a traditional dinner on Wednesday at the Islamic School of Seattle, and have invited city and state leaders to try to increase understanding of Islam. The meal will break Muslims' fasting during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began Thursday.
Local FBI agents have said they'll attend. So have labor union representatives and members of the World Affairs Council. But Bukhari said people don't need a fancy title to be welcomed.
"We want to meet them, shake hands and have them realize that we're just normal people," he said.
Bukhari, 27, who graduated with a degree in finance from Seattle University, became Washington president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. And according to a study by the national CAIR, Bukhari is among 62 percent of American Muslims who have obtained at least a bachelor's degree.
Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
Tel: 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726