RUPA SHENOY | September 27, 2008 02:16 PM EST | 

CHICAGO — Between the prayers that fill the holy month of Ramadan, during the long fasts that stretch from dawn to dusk, Muslims have been meeting to discuss the disappearance of Salman Ibrahim.

The respected businessman persuaded up to 200 Pakistani and Indian immigrants to contribute their savings and mortgage their homes to finance real estate deals.

But Ibrahim vanished in August, leaving his investors with losses that could total $50 million _ in some cases their life’s savings.

“The scale of impact that this stands to have on a lot of people in the South Asian and Muslim communities is potentially very drastic,” said attorney Salman Azam, who filed a petition last week to force Ibrahim’s company, Sunrise Equities Inc., into bankruptcy. “There are a lot of very, very sad stories and dire financial situations.”

But it’s the loss of trust that has really shaken people along Devon Avenue on Chicago’s North Side, home to one of North America’s largest South Asian communities.

Ibrahim lived in the neighborhood lined with South Asian groceries and businesses _ where men wear knee-length shirts and caps, most women cover their heads and Hindi and Urdu are spoken as often as English. He wore a beard and traditional dress, and attended the local Jame Masjid mosque.

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