Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Muslims Fearful over Americans' Reactions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Muslims Fearful over Americans' Reactions

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Times-Union staff writer

After last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Yusef Bilal of the Northside says he's nervous about his wife and daughter wearing their traditional Islamic garb.

But as devout Muslims, Bilal says his wife, Nefeesah, and their teenage daughter have no choice but to wear the traditional head scarf, called a hijab, and the traditional robe, called a jilbab.

"It's simply not an option," said Bilal, who runs a gift shop at 27 E. Seventh St. "But ever since the terrorist attack, I've been nervous about their safety. I just heard a report on NPR radio about women in hijabs being verbally attacked, so I called them [his wife and daughter] and told them to go home."

Bilal grew up on the Northside and converted to Islam 25 years ago. He said he's convinced the attacks Tuesday "were the work of Osama bin Laden because the operation absolutely had his signature."

In any event, he said, the perception is that Muslims from the Middle East were behind the heinous acts. And that's enough to make him fear retribution.

"Because of my faith in Allah, I'm not concerned for myself," he said. "But I do worry about my family. I think of the way Japanese-Americans were treated after Pearl Harbor."

He said most Muslims in Northeast Florida will be in mosques over the coming days discussing their futures.

"For me, it will be a collective decision," he said. "If I am advised to relocate to another city or to do something else, that's what I will do."

Bilal formed a group called the World Peace Movement three years ago. As part of the campaign, Mayor John Delaney last spring proclaimed May as Say No to Violence Month in Jacksonville. Bilal said he wants to make it "absolutely crystal clear" that he denounces last week's attacks and all terrorist attacks on America. …

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