A few of these encounters made it into the Las Vegas newspapers; others were passed along through mosque grapevines. Several Muslims, for example, volunteered the story of how one family's hajj party, celebrating their pilgrimage to Mecca, was crashed by a cadre of FBI agents.
As the government began to take a skeptical look at Muslim immigrants and visitors, the mosques buzzed with stories of detainments and deportations. Recalled Ismael Banks, a taxi driver: "Every weekend we'd hear about something.... 'They came and they took so and so. We haven't seen so and so in a month.' It went unreported, but a lot of these people, we still don't know what happened to them. It's a here today, gone tomorrow type of thing."
No hard figures are available, but it is believed that a number of immigrant families returned to their native countries after Sept. 11, fearing what a war on terrorism might portend for Muslims in general and Middle Easterners in particular.
Many of those who stayed have made adjustments to their everyday lives, seeking to avoid notice or provoke confrontation. They might shy away from the mosque, or alter or even drop obviously Islamic names.
Muhammad Khan, a 36-year-old security guard from Pakistan, entered a Starbucks one morning before work and ordered a hot chocolate. The server asked him his name, in order to print it on the drink cup. In keeping with the caffeinated friendliness of such establishments, most customers in line had given first names -- Karen, Tom, Pete. Not so Muhammad.
"Khan," he said softly. "Only Khan. That's all."
At a table outside, he explained: "After 9/11, I stopped using Muhammad. It causes too much trouble. It's the most common name in the world, but people hear it and it makes them uncomfortable. They look at you like you are from Mars or something -- like, 'Oh no, are you a terrorist?' I don't want to get those looks. It's too much trouble. So I just use Khan. Only Khan."
He said this with a smile and a sigh, as if the notion that someone might need to bury his own name -- the name of Islam's essential prophet at that -- was but one more loony marker of a strange time. His dark eyes, though, reflected something other than mirth.
After Sept. 11, Muslim women who wore their head scarves, or hijabs, in public became easily recognizable targets for harassment. The question of whether to persist in going about covered, as Muslims phrase it, was not a simple one; even the imams offered conflicting advice. For Fatiha Rahane, a 40-year-old immigrant from Morocco, the dilemma was freighted with spiritual significance.
Rahane opened a clothing store last spring that offered traditional Islamic wear. Though her shop was well-stocked with hijabs -- "Some like square ones," she explained, "some like rectangles, some like long ones. That's why I carry variety" -- Rahane covered her head only at prayers and religious festivals. She considered donning a scarf full time a symbol of a deep, religious commitment that, once made, should not be retracted.
"You can't do it and then take it off," she said. "See, it's like you practice your praying and then you stop praying. Then it's like you don't believe in your religion anymore."
She had been listening to taped Islamic lectures, reading the Koran -- trying to prepare herself, as she put it, for the hijab.
How would she know she was ready?
"It's in your heart," she said. "It will come in time. I'm looking forward to the comfort.
"If I'm wearing hijab," she said, "I will not care who is next to me, because I believe in it.... Let's say someone kills me and I'm wearing my hijab: I get something great. In paradise I will be rewarded for that.
"But if I was wearing hijab, and I take it off because I want to please others, that doesn't make sense. See, now when I'm ready, I'm ready to fight for it, to let no one say nothing about it, to say this is me. You either accept me with my hijab or not."
Most of the Muslims of Las Vegas seem to have encountered some form of hostility -- a stare-down at the gas station, anti-Muslim epithets at work, uttered just loud enough for them to hear -- and yet many of them are quick to point out that matters could have been much worse.
Unlike Japanese Americans in World War II, they note, Muslim Americans were not rounded up and railed out to internment camps at some distant Manzanar. And for every threatening call made to the mosques, they say, there have been dozens more expressing support.
On Sept. 11, neighbors brought flowers to a few Muslim families, anticipating they might be in for an ordeal. FBI agents and leaders of local law enforcement have made appearances at Friday prayers and mosque events, promising to protect Las Vegas Muslims against hate crimes.