Propelled by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's recent belittling remarks about the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier who died while serving in Iraq, local Muslims say they have new determination to organize politically and become better engaged in civic affairs.
The Democratic National Convention speech by Gold Star parent Khizr Khan about his son included a rebuke of Trump for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, to which Trump responded with an implication that Khan's wife, Ghazala, who stood by Khan's side during the speech, had been forbidden from talking because she is an oppressed woman.
Subhan Ali, a Stanford University graduate who started the Stanford Muslim Alumni Association, said that as an individual he believes the Khans' visibility has crystallized Muslim sentiments in America.
"The Muslim community has always been politically aware, but it has never been so clear on what side of the fence or the other we stand now. There's no ambiguity. We're not having debates about taxes or housing prices. This is something so central to our identity and to belonging to this country. It's so clear that you can't even talk about any other type of political discourse," he said.
Ironically, Republicans have traditionally enjoyed the support of American Muslims, the majority of whom have been Republicans because of the party's strong emphasis on family values, said Omar Farooqui, a Palo Alto resident.
But "the Republicans of the '80s are very different from today. Since the war (in Iraq) and the hate mongering, more and more are gravitating to the Democratic Party," he said.
Samina Sundas, founder and executive director of the Palo Alto nonprofit American Muslim Voice, an organization that fosters understanding among people of all faiths, said that Muslims are "very much a law-abiding and minding-their-own-business kind of people."
Sundas said she wasn't so troubled by Trump's rhetoric as by the number of people who have followed him and who voted for him in the Republican Primary, which many in the Muslim community say has taken them by surprise.
But the Khans' speaking up has "definitely brought more courage to people that it is going to have a positive effect if they stand up," Sundas said. When Muslims are better understood, their neighbors and the broader community will support them, she added.
"They won't have to remain in the shadows," she said.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes since the Trump rhetoric began last year is a concerted effort to register voters, said Nashwah Akhtar, outreach coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. In May, the organization held more than 30 voter-registration drives in the Bay Area and is planning more in September, she said.
"We want to make people aware of their rights and to be educated. We are also holding elected-official forums on local elections so people will know who's running for the Senate, Congress and city council," she said.
While the Bay Area remains mostly friendly to Muslims, Ali and Farooqui said they have personally been affected by the fear aroused by terrorist incidents and hate speech. Ali, who grew up in southern California, returned from visiting family to the Bay Area by plane around the time of the San Bernardino shootings, which were allegedly carried out by Islamic State sympathizers.
"When I flew back to the Bay Area, I was never so closely watched in my life. (The stereotyping) was very apparent in the airport. You could feel it that day," he said.
A new report, published last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, found that hateful incidents against Muslims reported to CAIR increased 58 percent in California in the past year.
Some 295 out of 1,556 anti-Muslim bias incidents occurred in the Bay Area, including employment and housing discrimination, hate crimes, school bullying and federal law enforcement questioning. Santa Clara County had the highest number of reported incidents of Bay Area counties, with 117 complaints, the fourth highest in the state, according to the report.
Farooqui's son was recently approached by another child who made a comment about Muslim stereotypes, he said. But the community work the family has done -- delivering peaches that they harvested at a farm to their neighbors during Ramadan and working earlier this summer with the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints to put together toiletry packages for homeless people -- opened the door for improved relationships.
Because of the work he did with the Latter Day Saints, Farooqui's son was able to resolve the conflict during a discussion with the child, he said.
Farooqui said that Muslims have been in America since Christopher Columbus, and they came in successive waves, emigrating in the 1920s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. As recent immigrants, they tended to be more insular as they concentrated on building careers and families in the United States.
"But now the second- and third-generation folks are making more of an effort to get out of the insular organizations and broaden their horizons. Post-9/11 saw the efforts of the second and third generations to participate across the board in mainstream organizations. In Palo Alto, they are actively working to break down stereotypes. That's what we really need -- through joint efforts we can really solve the problems that affect everyone," Farooqui said.
Sundas, who started her organization after Sept. 11, said there will are upcoming opportunities to join together with local Muslims. On Sept. 11, American Muslim Voice will host its annual Peace Picnic, which will be preceded by an interfaith peace walk. And in December, the organization will again host an Eid Festival celebration.