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CBS: U.S. Muslims 'Feel Like Strangers in Their Own Country'

Filling in for anchor Katie Couric on Thursday's CBS Evening News, Early Show co-host Harry Smith introduced a report on opposition to building mosques in some areas of the country: "...they feel like strangers in their own country, Muslims shocked by the growing opposition to new mosques....building a mosque has suddenly become a hot-button issue in many communities."

Smith expounded on the cause of the protests: "The furor over plans to burn the Koran and the building of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has had ripple effects all across America." Correspondent Seth Doane followed by focusing on opposition to a proposed mosque in Tennessee: "About 250 Muslim families live here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. For decades, they've lived in peace and have prayed at a small local mosque. But then trouble started brewing over this site, where they want to expand and build a bigger Islamic center."

Doane described the feelings of one Muslim resident: "[Saleh Sbenaty] says even after September 11th, he didn't see hatred like this." Doane added: "Nationwide, more than half a dozen proposed Islamic centers have run into roadblocks, from Temecula, California, to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to the high-profile one near Ground Zero." He did not explain what those "roadblocks" were.

Doane turned to the Sbenaty's daughter: "Is this really about a building or is it about something bigger?" Dima Sbenaty replied: "It's about the growing hatred, you know, against Muslims." Doane warned: "Dima says for the first time she's scared."

Near the end of the report, Doane cited more evidence of anti-Muslim sentiment in the form of grade school name-calling: "10-year-old Zaid Abuzahra probably had more on his mind than just school. Last week at recess, some bullies learned that he was Muslim." Abuzahra explained: "This group comes, and starts calling me terrorist, 'I hear you're a Muslim. This is America.'"

The report included only two brief sound bites of mosque opponents, with Doane portraying them as a radical fringe: "In June, residents packed meetings in protest....And what some call a vocal minority, got louder....A few weeks ago, construction equipment at the site was set on fire, and with that, the arsonists set nerves on edge, too."

Meanwhile, on Thursday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Ron Mott also reported on the building of a new mosque in Tennessee, but took a slightly different approach:

Last night's call to prayer outside Memphis was answered by the Muslim faithful as usual: shoes removed, rugs laid, all bowed east toward Mecca, singing Allah's praises. But what makes this year's Ramadan different is where they're worshiping, a Christian church called Heartsong, a sort of 'welcome to the neighborhood' gift while a new mosque is built nearby....Neighbors ever since the Memphis Islamic Center bought 31 acres in the heart of the Bible Belt. Unlike other parts of the country, there have been no signs of protests.

Doane left out any mention of that story of religious cooperation elsewhere in the state.

Here is a full transcript of Doane's September 9 report:

6:40PM ET TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Up next, they say they feel like strangers in their own country, Muslims shocked by the growing opposition to new mosques.

6:42PM ET SEGMENT:

SMITH: The furor over plans to burn the Koran and the building of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has had ripple effects all across America. There are 2.5 million Muslims in this country, and about 1900 mosques, but building a mosque has suddenly become a hot-button issue in many communities. As Seth Doane reports, that's just what happened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

SETH DOANE: Like most 13-year-olds, he's proud of his school, his soccer trophies, and his country.

SALIM SBENATY [MURFREESBORO, TN. RESIDENT]: I'm as American as you get. I'm as patriotic as you get. I mean, I'm America all the way.

DOANE: He's also proud of his religion. Salim Sbenaty is Muslim, and nowadays, this Tennessee town that's been his family's home for nearly 20 years, doesn't feel the same.

SBENATY: I'm always afraid for my mom, because there are always a few stupid people out there. You never know what they're going to do, and my mom wearing that scarf is a symbol saying, 'hey, I'm Muslim.'

DOANE: About 250 Muslim families live here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. For decades, they've lived in peace and have prayed at a small local mosque. But then trouble started brewing over this site, where they want to expand and build a bigger Islamic center. In June, residents packed meetings in protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If construction does begin, I would also encourage contractors to boycott it.

DOANE: And what some call a vocal minority, got louder.

LARRY ANDERSON [MUFREESBORO, TN. RESIDENT]: They want to make this instead of one nation under God, America, they want to make this one nation under Islam.

DOANE: A few weeks ago, construction equipment at the site was set on fire, and with that, the arsonists set nerves on edge, too. Salim's dad says even after September 11th, he didn't see hatred like this.

SALEH SBENATY: It's very hard for me to forget what I've heard directed toward me from people who don't know me.

DOANE: Nationwide, more than half a dozen proposed Islamic centers have run into roadblocks, from Temecula, California, to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to the high-profile one near Ground Zero. Is this really about a building or is it about something bigger?

DIMA SBENATY [SISTER OF SALIM SBENATY]: It's about the growing hatred, you know, against Muslims.

DOANE: Salim's 20-year-old sister Dima says for the first time she's scared.

SBENATY: It's very disappointing. It really is, because this country was founded upon freedom of religion.

DOANE: Across town this morning, 10-year-old Zaid Abuzahra probably had more on his mind than just school. Last week at recess, some bullies learned that he was Muslim.

ZAID ABUZAHRA: This group comes, and starts calling me terrorist, 'I hear you're a Muslim. This is America.'

DOANE: How did it make you feel?

ABUZAHRA: Awkward, sad, like, surprising.

DOANE: A surprise to many here who watch the news and wonder.

SBENATY: First Amendment, ever since I was little and had to memorize it, freedom of religion, it says it.

DOANE: In that First Amendment, another right - freedom of speech, for some just harder to hear. Seth Doane, CBS News, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.