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Forum on Islam addresses faith, terrorist attacks

December 13, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Seeking to foster greater cultural understanding of Islam, San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus and its Committee for Diversity and Equity hosted a forum about the religion Wednesday night.

While an overview of the Islamic faith was presented, the discussion also covered the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the differences between Islam and the extremist beliefs of those suspected in the attacks.

Though there are some 7 million Muslims in the United States, including 200 to 300 in the Imperial Valley, Islam is a religion many Americans know little about. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, many Muslim Americans want to answer questions people have about their faith and dispel myths.

Contrary to what many may think, Islam is actually a peaceful religion, explained Omaram Abdeen, a representative of the Council on American Islamic Relations.


Unfortunately, some Muslims around the world have deviated from the religion, he said.

Muslims, too, have been victims of terrorist attacks. About 300 Muslims died in the Sept. 11 tragedies, Abdeen said. Since then, there have also been 1,500 hate crimes against Muslims in America reported to CAIR, he said.

Those hate crimes have tapered off some 90 percent, though, and there weren't any reported in the Imperial Valley, Abdeen said.

Forums like this one "build bridges" between different religious and ethnic groups and help stop hate crimes, Abdeen said.

Islamic leader of the Islamic Center of Imperial County Imam Aziz Abdin agreed.

"Learning about each other as human beings and reaching out as neighbors are the only ways to build bridges," Abdin said.

Muslim Americans were deeply affected by the attacks against the United States, he said.

"It brought sorrow and sadness to all our hearts," Abdin said.

He called the scenario "doubly painful" when it was learned the suspects "claim to be Muslim."

Abdeen also warned against the singling out of Muslims by security officials at airports and other high-security areas.

While Abdeen said he had no problem being searched, he wishes everyone would be searched, not just those looking like stereotypical Muslims.

It's a dangerous practice, Abdeen said.

"Today it's the Muslims. Who's it going to be next? The blacks? The Hispanics?" Abdeen asked.

Intolerance of any group of people will only lead to further conflict. Education and understanding can break down those walls, Abdeen said.

"This (lecture) is part of that effort," he said.

>>Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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