Muslim-Americans fear backlash
by Rachel Zoll, 11 September 2001, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- Muslims worried about a possible backlash against them after Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, while clergy from other denominations urged their congregations to pray for the dead.

Gahzi Khankan, a Muslim leader, said he has been here before, sitting in his home watching TV images of a building turned to dust -- the federal building in Oklahoma City.

On Tuesday, he recalled the attacks against his fellow Muslims after that 1995 bombing by disgruntled Army veteran Timothy McVeigh. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says more than 200 Arab- and Muslim-Americans were victimized.

"Please do not start speculating and pointing the finger at us," said Khankan, a New York leader of the council.

The Islamic Association of Raleigh, N.C., and other groups representing Muslim- and Arab-Americans in that city, shut down a mosque and closed an Islamic school after receiving anonymous threats, said Wael Masri, an association member.

"There's a sense of fear, of panic," Masri said.

Arshad Majid, a member of the Islamic Center of Long Island, said Islam -- like Christianity and Judaism -- condemns both suicide and hurting civilians.

"We're concerned that the actions of a small number of extremists is likely to paint with a very broad brush the large population of God-fearing, peace-loving Muslims in America," he said.

Between 6 million and 7 million Americans consider themselves Muslim, according to a study released in April by professor Ihsan Bagby of Shaw University in Raleigh.

Several Muslims have been convicted in high-profile terrorist acts in the United States, such as the previous bombing of the World Trade Center and a shooting spree outside the CIA offices in Virginia, both in 1993.

Too many Americans equate those acts by individuals with Islam, said Sheik T.J. Al-Awani, president of the School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va.

"Muslims in this country would think this is unacceptable," Al-Awani said. "I can't accept anything against any American citizen. I'm Muslim. I'm also American. I love America."

Clergy from other denominations joined Muslims in condemning the attack, and organized special prayer services nationwide.

Bishop Kenneth Angell of Vermont urged Roman Catholic parishes in his state to pray for the dead. In Washington, Catholic bishops held a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

David Harris, executive director of American Jewish Committee, said staff at his New York office left to donate blood, went to hospitals to volunteer and searched for relatives who remained missing.

Archbishop Edward O'Brien, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the military, was in an annual retreat in Washington with 50 armed services chaplains when word of the attacks reached them.

"We had one priest at Fort Meyer, who was told, 'Come back. The bodies are coming in,"' O'Brien said.

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