When television networks this week showed hostages being forced by a gunman to hold a flag with Arabic script against the window of a Sydney cafe, it was the first sign that their captor wanted to link his cause to Islam.

While watching coverage of the siege at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe from his office, Rashid Ben Zerouk, a computer specialist in Sydney who is Muslim, said he felt a piercing glare from a colleague.

"He looked at me like I had to explain myself," Mr. Zerouk said. "I walked back to my desk with my head down. I felt like I wanted to hide."

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