After some University of Pennsylvania students and others in the Philadelphia area received a rash of mysterious robocalls this week asking them to "press 1" if they identify as Muslim, some feared it was the beginning of the Trump administration's threatened registry of Muslims in America.
"I was anxious. I wasn't panicking. But a lot of people were," said Dana Mohamed of Paoli, a consultant to Islamic nonprofits, who received a robocall.
"Given the anxiety in the community lately, every little thing is becoming more magnified," said a Muslim woman whose mother got a robocall and did not want her name published.
It turns out there was nothing to worry about. The calls were part of a survey being conducted on behalf of a Muslim advocacy group.
Recipients, however, said the recorded message did not identify the source or purpose of the calls.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) received calls and emails from its members and others citing "about two dozen" such robocalls, "and those are just the ones we know about," said executive director Jacob Bender.
On Tuesday, CAIR, via Facebook and email, issued a Community Alert:
"As-salamu alaikum dear friends," it read. "If you receive such a call, do not answer the question and do not press any number/button."
The alert advised people to hang up immediately and report details of the call to CAIR-Philadelphia's staff attorney.
According to reports, such robocalls, which appear to have emanated from a Washington exchange, also were received in the New York area.
Social media were ablaze with concern, but upon further investigation by CAIR it was determined that the robocalls came from a Muslim-sympathetic political action committee called Emerge USA, which had outsourced a postelection telephone survey.
An Emerge board member in Philadelphia, Mohammad Aziz, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Later Wednesday, Emerge USA, through a member of its board, sent a statement to CAIR-Philadelphia, which had asked for a clarification. The statement reads:
"One of the questions the poll asks is if the participant identifies themselves as Muslim as that is the targeted demographic for this particular survey.
"It was not anticipated that the poll would roll out at the same time as a proposed Muslim Registry was being proposed by a Trump President Elect. We apologize for any confusion or concern this may have caused.
"As soon as concerns were raised, the poll was suspended and the script was adjusted to make it clear a Muslim organization was conducting ... it as a regular process of our non profit activities [to] better serve the Muslim American community and America at large with valuable data."
In its statement of purpose, Emerge USA says it "seeks to engage, educate and empower Muslim, South Asian and Arab American communities through educational events, voter initiatives, and leadership development for the purpose of creating a community of equitable, knowledgeable and motivated citizens."
For Mohamed, learning the source of the robocalls was a relief.
"As soon as I heard it was Emerge, my heart and my head were fine," she said. "I was no longer stressed."