She's proud to be an American, and Muslim

It's two steps forward, one step back for Rose Hamid. When you are an American and Muslim, loyal to your country and devout in your worship, it can be tricky.

“I love this country,” says Hamid. “I'd rather be a Muslim in this country than any other country in this world.” But as the holy month of Ramadan ends, Hamid has reason to worry.

In this country she loves, one that has no religious test for a political candidate, her faith has been used to attack a presidential hopeful. Barack Obama is a Christian. But e-mailed rumors that he is Muslim are considered smears – effective ones.

Candidates visit churches and synagogues. But Hamid says she realizes that any candidate who visits a mosque or any gathering of Muslim Americans could have that used against him or her.

Hamid has also spoken out against the DVD “Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West,” that was inserted as a paid advertisement in newspapers across the country, including the Observer. In her opinion, the film is “hate speech.”

She invites anyone who wonders why more Muslims don't speak out against violent attacks to Google “Muslims against terrorists” and scan all the groups that do just that.

“But how do we make our voices heard?” she says. “It's not a sexy story, what the good and decent people are doing.”

Hamid, 49, has been through this before.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hamid, who wears a hijab – a traditional head covering – was apprehensive when she returned to work as a US Airways flight attendant. Passengers, though sometimes curious, are supportive. Hamid says their reactions strengthened her belief in the basic goodness and open-mindedness of others.

People were willing to learn the truth about a faith that has been misrepresented and twisted – even by those who purport to practice it – to justify violence.

Hamid was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in Cleveland. As a child, she followed the Catholic religion of her mother, who was from Colombia. She came to the religion of her Palestinian father on her own as a young woman in her 20s. “It made sense to me.” She later made the decision to wear a hijab, and she now has colorful scarves to accompany any outfit.

On a recent sunny afternoon in Marshall Park, it was her smile – not the scarf on her head – that invited the young couples and children passing by to smile back.

“After 9-11, it was difficult,” she said. “But Muslims need to do more outreach.” Muslims have to let go of their fear of how others will react to them, she believes.

Hamid is an ambassador in an increasingly diverse community – on the board of the interfaith Mecklenburg Ministries and president of Muslim Women of the Carolinas. She attends the Women's Seder at the Levine Jewish Community Center, where women of all faiths join hands in prayer. It's where we first met.

Hamid has taught her three children – Suzanne, 20, Omar, 19, and Samir, 16 – that freedom and justice for all is not just an American concept. It's what faithful Muslims believe.

She gets along best with a sister who is a Southern Baptist. “We are both trying to live a life that's pleasing to God.”

There would be no strife if people followed that rule, Hamid says, as she looks forward, not back.