For American Muslims, time once counted in minutes and hours is now measured as before and after. Before and after September 11.
Before the terrorist strikes, they felt safe in their homes and offices and, although many felt apart from the mainstream, most believed they had an equal stake in the American Dream. After the attacks, the nightmare of detention camps, such as those employed against Japanese Americans in the second world war, has seemed to many like a real threat.
These sentiments were expressed repeatedly at two town meetings held this week in the northern Virginia suburbs after 150 federal agents raided 14 homes and offices of some of the region's most respected Muslim leaders.
The raids were launched as part of Operation Green Quest, a task force created to track and disrupt the sources of terrorist finances. The Customs Service leads the group but it includes investigators from across a broad spectrum of agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and Secret Service.
In northern Virginia they targeted, among others, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences, the Muslim World League and the Fiqh Council of North America. These bodies were described by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) as "respected Islamic institutions" whose targeting "sends a hostile and chilling message to the American Muslim community and contradicts President Bush's repeated assertions that the war against terrorism is not a conflict with Islam".
Green Quest's work is shrouded in secrecy. A Customs Service spokesman said the affidavits and search warrants were under court seal but refused to say more about them.
According to Customs, Operation Green Quest is carrying out more than 300 probes into terrorist finances. In its four months of operation, it has seized about $10.3m in smuggled US currency and $4.3m in other assets. Its work has resulted in 21 searches, 12 arrests and four indictments.
It says evidence seized during the raids has generated "substantial leads". It has several investigations into charities and "so-called" relief operations. "Suspect charities frequently garner funds through community solicitation and fundraising appeals, then divert a portion of these funds to terrorist organisations," it says.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for Cair, said the task force had acted on "its usual unsupported allegations using secret evidence" classified on grounds of national security. "They raided a poultry business in Georgia," he said. "They are afraid of terrorist chickens." There were no charges and no arrests.
The Justice Department also used secret evidence last week to freeze the assets of Global Relief Foundation, a Muslim charity from the Chicago area. The secrecy is permitted under the Patriot Act, rushed through Congress and signed after September 11. It allows the freezing of assets of groups before proving they have funded terrorism.
Federal agents, who have only recently begun to move against American citizens, say it is a particularly complex task to sort out the recipients of Muslim charities' money. Non-citizens can be held, under the Patriot Act, virtually indefinitely, simply on suspicion. Detentions of an estimated 1,200 non-citizens in the wake of September 11 produced harsh condemnation from Amnesty International earlier this month.
Many have been deported and an estimated 300 are believed to remain in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Services. "There continues to be a disturbing level of secrecy surrounding the detentions," said Amnesty. "A significant number of detainees continue to be deprived of certain basic rights."
The Justice Department this week ended another attempt to conduct voluntary interviews of 5,000, predominantly Muslim, foreign nationals. Of these, 2,261 interviews were completed and, according to the Justice Department, fewer than 20 were people detained, mostly on visa violations. John Ashcroft, the attorney-general, has announced plans to interview 3,000 more foreign nationals.
Congressman John Conyers Jr, senior Democrat on the House judiciary committee, is one of the few in Congress who has spoken publicly against Green Quest: "The suggestion that Arab and Muslim Americans appreciate being singled out and interrogated is a prime example of the attorney-general's wartime propaganda machine in full swing."
In northern Virginia, Muslim Americans are still in shock over the raids. According to some of the 300-400 at the town meetings, agents broke doors and locks, brandished guns, and used handcuffs while they ransacked homes and offices.
Once grateful to President George W. Bush, who spoke out strongly against using them as scapegoats for September 11, many now regret their support for him in the 2000 election. They spoke of marching on the Capitol, lobbying their congressmen to hold hearings, impeaching Mr Ashcroft.
"As a community we feel hurt. Our kids are afraid to sleep at night," said Mohamed Majad of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. "We have been a law-abiding community . . . a model community."
As Muslims, they expressed fear. As Americans they expressed concern about how harsh treatment of Muslims in the US would be received abroad. Mr Bush's early slip, referring to the war on terrorism as "a crusade", has never been forgotten.
Nihad Awad, executive director of Cair, said he had been overseas when he heard about the raids and had had to defend the US government to other Muslims. He said he explained that the government had slipped into the control of "the extremists".
Additional reporting by Brendan Hightower