Friday, May 11, 2007

Muslims Fear Backlash

Iowa Muslims are bracing themselves, fearful that allegations of a plot by six Muslim men to attack Fort Dix, N.J., will spawn new incidents of anti-Islamic harassment and bias.

"Everybody was talking about" the FBI arrests of the men, said Ibrahim Dremali, imam of the Des Moines Islamic Center. "Some are afraid backlash may be coming. People are becoming cautious again. I've told them they have to be careful."

That sentiment comes on the heels of a nationwide survey by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which counted 1,972 incidents of anti-Muslim bias in 2005, up from 1,522 in 2004. The 2005 figure, from the group's most recent tally, represents the largest number reported to the council, also known as CAIR, in its 12-year history.

The six New Jersey men, identified as "Islamic radicals" by the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, Christopher Christie, were arrested Monday as two attempted to buy guns. Authorities believe the men were "inspired" by international terrorist groups, although not directly linked to a specific organization.

Members of the Muslim Community Center in Des Moines are praying that the general public will understand that they are as outraged as anyone else.

"If we learned of any person trying to do something like this, we would turn them over to authorities," said Mohamad Khan, imam for the Muslim Community Center. "(As American Muslims) we hope Iowans don't lump us all together in the same category."

Dremali of the Des Moines Islamic Center has warned his congregation about being cautious when flying. Recently, a group of imams were pulled off their US Airways flight in Minneapolis after passengers accused them of acting suspiciously. Dremali, who has unsuccessfully tried to get his name off the Transportation Security Administration alert list, has given up flying except in emergencies.

In a statement, CAIR praised the FBI's foiling of the alleged plot, but also urged Muslims to report to police any incidents of harassment or vandalism against them.

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