Arab-Americans, U.S. Muslims Find Fissures in Ranks on Attacks

By Hallow, Ralph Z. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

Arab-Americans, U.S. Muslims Find Fissures in Ranks on Attacks


Hallow, Ralph Z., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow

Arab and Islamic leaders in the United States, speaking as American citizens, loudly condemned the Sept. 11 attacks, unequivocally backed America and spoke of it as their country.

But they are showing signs of disunity in other areas.

In a few instances, some of these leaders appeared reluctant to identify the perpetrators as part of an Osama bin Laden or Islamic-fundamentalist conspiracy.

"We absolutely condemn the attacks, but our fantasy and wish is that it won't turn out to be Muslims or Arabs who did it," Dr. Laila Marayati, a physician and spokeswoman for the Muslim Women's League, said in an interview. "During the Oklahoma City bombing, we said to ourselves, `Oh, God, don't let it be one of us.'"

And some leaders yesterday said the United States, to avoid making more enemies abroad, must first prove to the world that the people it targets for retaliation committed the crime.

Although most Arab-American leaders say this is not the time to bring Middle East policy into the discussion, some of these leaders are now hinting that anti-American terrorism is rooted in American foreign policy in the region.

"We can suppress terrorism by force, but not eliminate it except by justice. We have to understand when people abroad are angry with this country and come up with solutions," Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in an interview.

Yet Beirut-born Khalid Saffuri, president of the Islamic Institute, said there was no justification for such attacks. "It's wrong for someone to say he understands why terrorists would do this to America," he said. "There is never an excuse for doing it."

On Sept. 11, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee rushed out a statement that said: "Arab Americans, like all Americans, are shocked and angered by such brutality, and we share all the emotions of our fellow citizens. Arab Americans view these attacks as targeting all Americans without exception.

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