- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2001

NEW YORK — This city's 400,000 Muslims fear they may become targets of anger from fellow Americans in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in New York and Washington.
Police cars are posted outside the hundreds of mosques in the city, and attendance at prayer services has dropped to half the normal turnout.
Despite such worries, those worshipping yesterday at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, the city's largest mosque, remained proud of their religious identity.
"The U.S. says it wants to fight terrorism," said Habib Aitelhoussine, 36. "If they want to fight Islam, they will not be successful. But if they fight terrorism, they will have our full support."
A cabdriver from Morocco, Mr. Aitelhoussine is like many other Muslims in New York — fully Westernized in his blue Izod polo shirt and Adidas sweat pants, but devoted to a faith that keeps him wary of his fellow Americans.
Harsher views were expressed yesterday by Abdulmalik, a Muslim orator who delivered a vehement sermon at the Islamic center in north Manhattan.
"We do not support the killing but we have to deal with the fact. How many people have we killed?" he asked.
The black speaker likened Arab countries that support threatened U.S. retaliation against Afghanistan to Africans who participated in the slave trade.
But Abdulmalik's sermon drew a mixed response from about 250 worshippers. Some watched blank-faced. Others nodded.
He spoke to a crowd much smaller than usual during yesterday's afternoon prayer. "People are scared to come," one worshipper said.
Men and boys sat barefoot around him; shoes are forbidden in Islamic sanctuaries. Some of the men wore suits. Others wore jeans and T-shirts. Women and girls sat at the back of the room, their heads draped in the traditional Muslim head covering, called a hijab, their bodies obscured by full robes.
All were keenly aware of anti-Muslim sentiments generated by last week's kamikaze attacks, which left more than 5,000 people dead or missing.
The 19 suspected hijackers were Muslims from the Middle East, according to the Justice Department.
"Even if those inhumane acts are the work of [bin Laden], it is no excuse for Americans to attack Arabs," said Mohammed Gemeaha, who leads the Islamic center in Manhattan. "They did not represent the entire Arab nations, and you should understand this very well. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you if you take revenge against [the terrorists]. But they will be very happy if you attack all Arabs, if you play their game."
Several young men handed out fliers outside the worship service, single sheet statements with "Attack on USA, The Muslim response" printed at the top.
"One of the core meanings of Islam is peace," the statement declared.
"Therefore, the inhumane and horrific events at the World Trade Center which caused innocent casualties — including many Muslim victims — is clearly, without a doubt, completely un-Islamic."
The attacks have made life almost unbearable for those Arabs living in the United States, said a 26-year-old graduate student from Egypt.
"We are more upset than anyone else," said Khaled Kadry. "Because we are being accused of doing [the attack]."
Abdulmalik said after the service that many Americans are under the misconception that by killing himself for an Islamic cause, a Muslim commits an act that earns an afterlife in paradise.
"This is the belief of fanatics," he said.
But while orthodox Muslims renounce such fanaticism, adherents of the Nation of Islam — an American-born black movement — have taken to the streets with a militant message.
Saturday night on Eighth Street in Chelsea, several black Muslims held court, referring to the red stripes of the American flag as "blood."
One heckler, a white man wearing a U.S. flag around his neck as a kerchief, was berated by one of the black Muslims as a "devil."
"You see, now, what happens when you are part of the sickness," the Muslim said.

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