In the shock and horror that besieged the country after the attacks by Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, many American Muslims — like everyone, mourning a lost sense of peace — withstood abuse, even assaults, and felt suddenly thrust into defending their 1,400-year-old religion.

Across the country, Muslim men were attacked, some fatally. Women in headscarves were harassed, and mosques and Muslim businesses were vandalized.

That sense of dread, reinforced by renewed bias attacks and a new, freely expressed distrust of Islam and its adherents, has returned 15 years after al-Qaida dramatically changed American culture and politics. While many political leaders decry such attacks and voice support for Muslim neighbors, others are using language that critics say stokes fear and makes Muslims feel they are not welcome here.

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