- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Local Muslims have found more support than violent backlash from fellow Americans in the wake of the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite several isolated incidents of harassment and assault, local Muslims say Americans overall have embraced the Islamic community, in some cases, offering to repair mosques and storefronts, including one in Alexandria,Va. that had been vandalized.
"Everybody has been very nice, very kind," said Hazim Barakat, an Islamic bookstore owner whose windows were smashed two days after the terrorist attacks. "The people who commit these violent acts are one in a million."
The response, they say, has been the opposite of the widespread backlash the media has warned against after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"The general public has been more supportive than ever before," said Farkhunda Ali with the American Muslim Council in the District. "Sure, there's still some ignorance, but I think that love and acceptance will conquer evil."
Local Muslims concede there has been some backlash against Arab-Americans across the country. So far, three men a Sikh, a Pakistani-American and an Egyptian-American have been killed in three separate hate crimes in the United States since the terrorist attacks.
There also were several mosques or Islamic community centers that were vandalized or burned down, and several Muslim women were accosted on the street. In some cases, Muslim schoolchildren have been taunted by fellow students. Some have found notes with racial slurs in their lockers.
But no matter how horrific the incidents have been to the victims, local Muslims say the community has suffered far less backlash than the public had feared.
"I'm very sorry that three people got killed," said Sabir Rahman, president of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring. "But how many people died in the attacks [at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon]?"
Mr. Rahman said yesterday he believes the media are to blame for much of the crime that has been committed against Muslims.
"The media constantly says it's the Muslim terrorists who did this, it's the Islamic terrorists who did the attacks," Mr. Rahman said. "How do you expect people to react? The media is just inflaming the public by repeating this."
Muslims agree that they are not surprised the local Islamic community has gotten so much public support.
Several local Muslim groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations in the District, have received several telephone calls and e-mail messages that offered to protect members of the community.
"We've gotten a lot of support," said Ibrahim Cooper, CAIR's communications director.
Mr. Barakat, who owns the Islamic bookstore on King Street in Alexandria, said he received $700 from a private organization and local residents to help replace the storefront windows. "The support has just been overwhelming," he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide