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In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, many Islamic members of New York’s legal community, and those who do business with clients in the Middle East, are contemplating what the future will hold for both their professional and personal lives. In light of recent instances of physical assault that were apparently sparked by the terrorist attacks, most Arab-American and other Muslim attorneys in the city are primarily concerned for their safety. In the first week after the disaster, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund reported at least 31 incidents of anti-Muslim violence, with at least 13 violent assaults occurring in New York City and its surrounding areas. “We’re very concerned about the reports of violence and harassment against South Asians, especially Sikhs, Pakistanis and Indians,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Defense and Education Fund. Fear of physical harm has caused at least one New York City attorney in the public eye to stop her custom of wearing a hijab, the traditional headdress of Muslim women. Other attorneys, while disturbed by the nature of such physical attacks on Muslims, are encouraged by the response of government officials and the media, both of whom have denounced such violence. Ayaz R. Shaikh, a special counsel at O’Melveny & Myers who is of Indian and Muslim decent, pointed out that the U.S. government was openly hostile to German-Americans and pacifists during World War I, and to Japanese-Americans during World War II — something, he said, that has not been true for Arabs in the wake of the most recent attack on America. “We need to focus on how far we’ve come,” said Mr. Shaikh. “I’ve been struck not by the instances of violence, however heinous they may be. I’ve been struck by the fact that the government and the media have gone to great lengths to persuade the public not to react in a violent and unjustified manner.” For Arab-American solo practitioners, many of whom retain a large number of Arab-American clients, the impact of anti-Arab bias has become an issue over which their clients are seeking personal consolation. “My clients at this point are coming to me more as a psychiatrist than as an attorney,” said Rifat A. Harb, a Palestinian-American solo practitioner with offices in Manhattan and Queens. “I have people who are coming to ask me what to do if they are stopped on the street by police. I have a client who came to me who is married to a U.S. citizen and he has a motion to reopen an order of deportation issued against him a few years ago, and he cannot eat or sleep.” IMMIGRATION CONCERNS The Bush administration’s decision to expand its power to detain immigrants, including allowing for the indefinite detention of even legal immigrants, has created more uncertainty for attorneys who represent Arabs in immigration cases. “I think that Arabic lawyers now have to work harder when they’re dealing with an immigration case because any little inconsistency or omission in the information an Arabic applicant supplies will probably be frowned upon,” said Mr. Harb. Also a concern is how the impact the terrorist attacks — and the possibility of an extended military campaign — will affect firms that represent clients from the Middle East. “Most of the business interests we are involved with will not be shaken out of the area easily, so I don’t see any significant downturn,” said Nicholas B. Angell of Afridi, Angell & Pelletreau, a Manhattan firm with offices in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. “If there are bombings involved, of course those circumstances will change.” Underlying the anxiety over how anti-Arab bias might affect their practices, however, is a concern among Muslim attorneys that some segments in the United States have laid the blame for the terrorist attacks on all Muslims. It is a notion that the attorneys are quick to denounce. “A lot of Americans found it easy to distance themselves from Timothy McVeigh because he was crazy,” said Mr. Harb. “It’s the same with Muslims and Arabs now. The way I view the terrorists who did this is exactly the way I, as an American, or anyone else who is an American, views Timothy McVeigh. I consider them to be my enemy.” Mr. Shaikh, who has written extensively on terrorism and ways to combat it, cautions that pitting America’s Muslim community against the rest of its citizens may be one of the things the terrorists were trying to accomplish. “The people who perpetrated this act are really beyond the pale of civilization,” said Mr. Shaikh. “They would like to rally their people to view this as a clash of civilizations. We play into their hands if we encourage that point of view.”

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