- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2005

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — The suspicious looks and shouted insults started in 1993, after Muslims living here helped plan the bombing that damaged the World Trade Center just across the Hudson River. The suspicions intensified after September 11, 2001, when Muslim hijackers destroyed the twin towers.

Now, a third wave of anti-Muslim sentiment is washing over New Jersey’s second-largest city, sparked this time by reports that the killing of an Egyptian Christian man, his wife and two young daughters was the work of Muslims angered by messages the man posted in an Internet chat room.

Many in the Muslim community made overtures to members of other faiths after the September 11 attacks. Imams visited churches and synagogues. Joint prayer breakfasts and open houses were held. Muslim merchants visited the homes of their Christian and Jewish counterparts and strongly denounced the attacks.

“We’ve been working for three years on getting Christians together with Muslims,” said Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union. “Now, much of that progress is gone. It is definitely going to be set back.”

The bodies of Hossam Armanious, 47, an Egyptian Christian; his wife, Amal Garas, 37; and their daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were discovered Jan. 14 in the family’s home. They had been bound and gagged; each was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and head. No arrests have been made.

Many in this city’s sizable Egyptian population think the killings were religiously motivated.

After the killings, Muslims tried anew to mend fences, but the results were mixed, at best. Several people attended the family’s funeral, but a New York cleric was escorted out of the church hall as a precaution after a heckler shouted at him. Mourners engaged in several scuffles before and after the funeral, including one in which about 35 persons pushed, shoved and traded punches in the street. Others yelled anti-Islamic slogans.

At St. George & St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church in Jersey City, where the Armanious family was active, the Rev. David Bebawy urged restraint and said he was troubled by the heated rhetoric that followed the slayings.

“We are waiting to see what the result of the investigation is,” he said. “It’s too early to blame anyone.”

Suzanne Loutfy, a Muslim leader of the Egyptian-American Group, asked the public not to blame Islam if the killers are found to be Muslim. “People are so willing to condemn an entire religion,” she said. “That’s what the big problem is. People commit crimes; religions don’t. I hope we can be intelligent enough to separate those two.”

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