Many Arab-Americans display flags in their storefront windows, eager to share their feelings of loyalty to the United States - and avoid trouble in their adopted land.
Some say it's worth the extra effort for safety. Others feel bitter at having to prove themselves to other Americans."If people wanted to show the American flag as a way of trying to ease tension, that was fine, but I found that a little overwhelming," said Jessica Daher, regional coordinator of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's Detroit office. The Washington-based organization has 25,000 members nationwide.
"People felt forced to do that so they wouldn't get attacked. That's not the right reason to fly a flag," Daher said Friday. "A public expression of patriotism should not be a requirement."
All over the United States, since the start of the Persian Gulf war, Americans sought to display their feelings with flags, yellow ribbons, lapel buttons and other patriotic symbols.
The issue became particularly relevant in Detroit during the war. About 250,000 people of Arab descent live in the area, the largest such population outside the Middle East. About 50,000 are Chaldean, Christian Arabs mostly of Iraqi descent.
Some had been unable to contact relatives, and many were afraid to speak out, worried their families might suffer. There was some anti-war sentiment in the neighborhood, including some feeling that the United States should not get involved. Others expressed dismay that their adopted country was at war with their native land.
More than 200 people turned out a week ago for a boistrous rally and march to denounce the ground war.
Sam Yono, president of the Chaldean Federation, however, said he wasn't bitter, that if Arab-Americans felt pushed into expressing their feelings about the war, it worked in their favor.
"We have been reaching out, talking to the media, holding meetings and letting people know where we stand," Yono said. "If that means showing patriotism, well, then there's really nothing wrong with that.
"We've participated in the community in the past, and people realize we are peaceful."
But all has not been smooth sailing.
The FBI has more than 50 civil-rights investigations under way nationwide in which Arab-Americans have been victims since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, said special agent Sharon Smith in Washington.
"The FBI considers those to be priority investigations," she said.
The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said it had documented more than twice as many incidents of harassment around the country.
In one, in Tulsa, Okla., the home of an Iraqi-American family was set on fire while they were away on vacation last month. But later, some people in the community started a fund to help them out.
In January, Mayor Coleman Young declared Detroit in a state of emergency, citing reports of threatened violence against businesses. Gov. John Engler refused Young's request to use the National Guard.
The U.S.-born Lebanese-American Noel Saleh said he was relieved the war didn't produce a serious backlash against Arab-Americans.
"We were fortunate it didn't become an organized movement. In fact, they were very minimal, both in severity and number."