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With bin Laden gone, do U.S. Muslims have a reason for hope?

Photo by Steven Cuevas/KPCC

Throughout the day, Muslim and Middle Eastern community leaders around the country have been coming forward to express relief over the death of Osama bin Laden yesterday during a targeted mission by U.S. forces in Pakistan. Some have also expressed a sense of hope.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, orchestrated by bin Laden, set off a chain reaction that to this day has left American Muslims reeling, from an early hate crime wave to anti-mosque protests to, just recently, a House hearing on the "extent of radicalization" among Muslims in the United States.

Several of those quoted today expressed optimism that bin Laden's death will mark a turning point for the larger U.S. Muslim community, much of it composed of immigrants, that for several years now has felt misunderstood and under scrutiny.

A Muslim religious leader in Florida addressed this in a Reuters piece:

"It has been a nightmare to try to constantly explain to ordinary Americans that we are not associated with bin Laden. We have tried very hard to convince people that Muslims are not one monolithic group standing behind this monster," said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

"We were also victims of bin Laden's ideology of hate," he said. "The man hijacked our religion, committed crimes in the name of our religion and caused the greatest damage to the American Muslim community and Islam."

In Orange County, another religious leader spoke optimistically during a press conference, reported on by the Orange County Register:
Muzammil Siddiqi, religious director of Islamic Society of Orange County said: "Islam is totally against terrorism, totally against violence," and bin Laden's death has "brought a sense of relief for all of us.

"We hope this chapter that began 10 years ago will close and a new chapter will begin," he added. "We want to live together in peace and harmony."

The Associated Press spoke to this business owner in Michigan:
"Sept. 11 brought misery to our life in the U.S. Even though we were well, we had a lot of friends and family, we’ve been under attack for so long," said Mohamed Kobeissi, 54, manager of the Arabica Café in Dearborn, a heavily Arab suburb of Detroit.

Nearby, late-night diners watched the news unfolding on the café’s big screen TVs. "By seeing him out of our life, period, it gives us comfort that at least no big harm will come to the Muslim community in the U.S. from him or people like him."

Bin Laden's death comes after a year during which Islamophobia in the United States has been at a high point, making headlines with a Florida pastor threatening to publicly burn copies of the Quran, anti-mosque protests from Temecula to New York, and a recent incident in Yorba Linda where shouting protesters surrounded a Muslim community fundraising dinner.

Do you think that Osama bin Laden's death could help turn this recent tide, or is the change in public attitudes some hope for something that remains far off?