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Forum Aims to Calm US Muslim Fears

Sam Eaton
10/09/2001

The September eleventh terrorist attacks, and now the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan, have shaken Seattle’s Muslim community. Many are afraid to attend Mosque or send their children to school dressed in traditional clothing. KUOW’s Sam Eaton attended a forum last night (Mon) at the Highpoint YMCA of West Seattle… aimed at calming these fears. He files this report.

MANY OF THE MUSLIM TEENS THAT SPEND TIME AT THE HIGH POINT YMCA PLAYING FOOSEBALL AND WORKING ON THE COMPUTERS ARE OF EAST AFRICAN DECENT. BUT THAT DOESN’T MAKE THEM IMMUNE TO MUSLIM BACKLASH. OSMAN HAJJI SAYS EVER SINCE WORSHIPPERS AT THE NORTHGATE MOSQUE WERE ATTACKED LAST MONTH, HE’S ALTERED HIS DAILY PRAYER SCHEDULE. Usually I used to pray at the Mosque, but right now I pray at home. OTHER TEENS SAY MUSLIMS AT SCHOOL ARE BEING CALLED TERRORISTS. FEARING THE WORST, MANY PARENTS HAVE TOLD THEIR DAUGHTERS NOT TO WEAR THEIR VEILS TO SCHOOL. BUT 16-YEAR-OLD ABDUL MOHAMED, SAYS HIS SCHOOLMATES HAVE MOSTLY BEEN SUPPORTIVE. HE THINKS HIS PARENTS FEARS ARE FUELED BY HEARSAY. I kind of just tell my parents that those might be just rumors some people are just saying. But they’re still worried for us that we might get hurt. BUT REGARDLESS OF THE THREATS’ TRUE OR IMAGINED SEVERITY, THE FEAR IS VERY REAL HERE. OVER A 100 PEOPLE TURNED OUT LAST NIGHT FOR A FORUM ON HOW TO RESPOND TO MUSLIM BACKLASH. IT INCLUDED SPEAKERS SUCH AS CATHY WONDEROTH WITH THE SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT… Good evening and thank you having me here tonight, I am going to talk a little bit about hate crimes… WONDEROTH EXPLAINED HOW MUSLIMS CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST HARRASSMENT. THE EVENT DREW PEOPLE FROM MANY DIFFERENT ETHNIC BACKGROUNDS AND RELIGIONS. SOMALIAN MUSLIMS SAT NEXT TO MEXICAN CATHOLICS AND VIETNAMESE CHRISTIANS… ALL LEANING FORWARD TO HEAR THE SPEAKER’S WORDS TRANSLATED INTO THEIR NATIVE TONGUES. (collage of foreign languages) BUT ONCE THE FORUM WAS OVER AND THE CONTACT NUMBERS FOR POLICE AND CIVIL RIGHTS DEFENDERS WERE HANDED OUT, MANY MUSLIM’S FEARS WERE STILL STRONG. FATIMA ELGEZZARI (FAT-ee-ma EEL-jez-are-ee), WHO IMMIGRATED HERE FROM MORROCO IS SADDENED THAT PEOPLE ASSOCIATE HER RELIGION AND APPEARANCE WITH TERRORISTS. Now we are scared to speak our language, so if I go Safeway or something, I speak with my husband French. SHE SAYS SHE FEELS LIKE A PRISONER IN HER OWN BELIEFS AND HAS EVEN ABANDONED HER VEIL AS A WAY TO BLEND IN. WITH THE AIR STRIKES JUST BEGINNING IN AFGHANISTAN, ELGEZZARI, AND MANY LIKE HER, FEAR IT WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE WEARING A MUSLIM VEIL IN AMERICA WILL FEEL SAFE AGAIN. IN WEST SEATTLE, I’M SAM EATON, KUOW, 94.9, PUBLIC RADIO.

01.17.18

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