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Arabs Worry About Relatives in US - 2001-09-17

Following last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States, there is concern in the Arab world that Arab friends and relatives living in the United States may themselves become targets of attack.

Maged Faraq, an Egyptian historian and publisher who has a sister living in the United States is afraid of what may happen to her because of Tuesday's bombings.

He remembers 1995 when a federal building in the U.S. state of Oklahoma was bombed and 168 people were killed. That attack was carried out by Americans, but suspicion initially focused on foreigners. "She was attacked in the streets," he said. "She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and she has been attacked in the streets several times because she looked Arab, she looked Egyptian, she looked Muslim."

Shortly after last Tuesday's terror occurred, Mr. Faraq called his sister to make sure she was okay. Though nothing has happened to her as yet, his sister, Magda Kassel, told VOA she is very nervous. Before the terrorist attacks she said she was beginning to feel comfortable in the United States, but now she is scared. "We were really feeling much better, and more accepted, and more understood by the American society. And for this to happen now is a major blow," she said. "We have changed our lifestyles. We do not do a lot of things that we were doing before, such as gatherings in the park or in public. We don't do that anymore."

Another woman we spoke with has three sons living in the United States, one of whom lives in New York City and another in Washington. The woman did not want to give her name, but she did tell VOA of her fears. "My major concern, my children," she says. "You know how I feel? One of them could have been killed there. What do you think how I felt? I call them three days in a row to find out how they are. Every time I call, they say they are fine, but things were very bad."

The son who lives in Washington also spoke with VOA. He said he fears the effect the attacks would have on life in America, for him as an Egyptian and as an American. "As a naturalized U.S. citizen, I'm concerned," he said. "As an Arab, as an Egyptian, I'm concerned. So, I've got concerns on both sides of the fence. I'm concerned, as an American citizen, [about] how this is going to affect the aspect of life as Americans know it - from airline travel, to future security within the boundaries of the country, to economic impact, and all the lives that were lost - and needlessly."

All those we spoke with said Muslims, Arabs, or Americans -- should not be judged by the acts of a few.