Islamic Americans struggle with stereotype


    By Kallee Nielsen

    It rose from the smoke that was brewed by the hate that drove Tuesday”s terrorist attacks: More hatred.

    In Alexandria, Va., four bricks shattered the glass of an Islamic-owned bookstore, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported.

    The same day, six bullets shot through the windows of a mosque in North Texas, CAIR said.

    And according to the Associated Press, an arson fire at a Salt Lake Pakistani restaurant was likely related to Tuesday”s tragedies.

    There were more than 200 reported incidents of harassment, threats or actual violence nationally by those blaming Muslims for the attack, according to CAIR.

    But Nabil Sharaf, president of the Student Muslim Association at BYU, said it is unfair to associate Muslims with the perpetrators of the crime.

    “To say that those terrorists represent all Muslims is like saying that David Koresh represents all Christians,” he said.

    According to Sharaf, 24, a senior from Jerusalem majoring in information technologies, some people don”t understand the separation between good, hard-working Muslims and terrorists who merely use Islam to justify a crime.

    “The terrorists did not carry this out for religious reasons, but demented political purposes,” Sharaf said.

    Enass Tinah, president of BYU”s Arabesque Club, said these niche movements often use religion as a means of recruiting people. In doing so, they wrongly label all Muslims. “Muslims are a peace-loving people,” she said.

    According to Tinah, 27, a graduate student from Ramallah majoring in molecular biology, there exists a widespread ignorance about basic Islamic beliefs and rituals and the things that define Muslims.

    “We”re talking about 1.2 billion people that are Muslim,” Tinah said. “We”re talking about a variety of people and languages and colors and races and a religion that spans Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.”

    Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States and around the world. There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in America.

    Recent anti-Muslim hate crimes echo, and perhaps amplify, those that occurred following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklah., in spite of the fact that those found guilty of the attacks had no connection with the Islamic religion.

    “Muslims are fearing for their safety right now,” Sharaf said.

    However, Sharaf said circumstances for Muslims in Utah County and at BYU have been considerably better than in other places. “I”ve only heard of one or two verbal arguments, and they ended in peaceful handshakes.”

    CAIR and other Muslim groups have suggested that Muslims stay low profile in that those wearing Islamic attire stay out of public areas for the immediate future.

    Speaking of Muslim-Americans, Sharaf said, “We need to remember that they are Americans. There were actually Muslims working in the tower.”

    The two major Muslim organizations in the United States, CAIR and the American Muslim Political Coordination Council, have both condemned the attack, he said.

    “The feelings of Muslims I”ve talked to has been a lot of sorrow and a lot of pain,” Sharaf said.

    Fahad Saghir, 20, from Karachi, Pakistan majoring in statistics, resonated those emotions: “I have been in this country for two years and I feel like an American. I feel sorry as an American.”

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