DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - When the latest horrible headline hits — and terror is the topic — Ali Mahmoud's thoughts travel a familiar path: "Oh, God, please, please… don't be Muslim. Please don't be Muslim."
Mahmoud, Muslim by faith, was born and raised in Plano. So he's also an American... right down to his star-spangled socks.
"The fact that people can go online or on their show and say the word 'Muslim' and for it to have a negative connotation about somebody—I think that's the most disheartening thing."
Now a senior at the University of Texas at Dallas, Mahmoud was just 7-years-old when the September 11 terror attacks re-wrote the nation's 'normal.' He says much of the overt hostility has subsided. But, many Muslims are still regarded as terrorists-in-waiting, rather than fellow Americans, just practicing a different faith.
"It's kind of sad to me to think that in America, a country that has such high standards on paper, that we have to continually say that—as Muslims [to] have to continually clarify that we're not here to destroy the hope of the place that we call home."
Community advocates insist education is an effective antidote to sensationalism and fear.
"People love that kind of tantalizing information," says Alia Salem, Executive Director of the DFW Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "But, unfortunately, it just doesn't represent the truth. And if we as a community don't get that right, it'll weaken us further."
Meanwhile, Mahmoud continues to hope that America will one day live up to its promise: freedom and equality for all.
"I think over the history of America, there's always kind of been that 'other', says Mahmoud. "I think we need to be cognizant of that and hopefully we can come to a time in America where we live up to what we have on paper and there is no 'other'… and we're all just Americans."
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