Md. Muslims condemn attacks, collect funds at prayer services

Police officers posted at Islamic centers to avert possible crimes

Terrorism Strikes America

The Response

September 15, 2001|By Eric Siegel and Laura Vozzella | Eric Siegel and Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Showing their patriotism and sympathy for victims of terrorism, Muslim leaders in Maryland used the occasion of weekly prayer services yesterday to distribute American flags, collect money for families and denounce this week's attack on the United States.

"Muslims all over the world are condemning this act," Imam Adam El-Sheikh told several hundred worshippers at a service at an Islamic center in Catonsville.

"Killing human beings is a heinous crime and is punishable by Islamic law and also by the judgment day," he said.

Posted at the entrance to the center of the Islamic Society of Baltimore and the door to a Muslim school gymnasium where the service was held were large signs adorned with images of the American flag.

"We, Muslims, strongly condemn these acts of terrorism," the signs read. "Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have lost loved ones in this terrible act."

Hundreds of paper replicas of American flags, to place on automobile dashboards, were passed out.

"These people are Americans," said Umar Mustafa, president of the society, which he said has about 10,000 members. "We want the larger community to know that we're not separate and distinct from them."

In Columbia, about 150 Muslims gathered at Owen Brown Interfaith Center to pray, donate money and get advice from police on how to protect themselves from possible hate crimes.

Kneeling on prayer rugs and facing Mecca, they wore business suits and T-shirts, head scarves and, in one case, a New York Yankees baseball cap.

"Show us the way of conduct, of love, of peace," said Imam Mahmoud Abdel-Hady of Dar Al-Taqwa mosque, which regularly meets at the interfaith center

The Quran forbids terrorist attacks, and sets out strict rules even for a declared war, he said.

"Do not attack an old man or a woman or a child," Abdel-Hady said. "Do not burn a tree or crops. Do not destroy a home. ... There is a law, there is a way of conduct. There is a rule of engagement, so to speak.

"What happened in attacking those innocent people is against our way of life. ... This is not acceptable, even in a way of war that is announced."

After the service, Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay encouraged the group to alert police to any problems.

One instance of telephone harassment has been reported to Howard County police since terrorists struck, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

But anti-Muslim violence across the country had many members of the congregation worried.

Livesay assured the group that police would guard the interfaith center during regular Friday prayers until that fear subsidies.

Since Tuesday's attack, Baltimore County police have posted a patrol car across from the Islamic center in Catonsville.

During yesterday's service on the Islamic holy day, Imam El-Sheikh took notice of the police presence and of President Bush's admonition against retaliation against Arab-Americans.

"We're grateful for that," he said.

He also read a statement from Muslim leaders calling for the "swift apprehension and punishment" of those responsible for the attack.

Several worshipers said they agreed with the Imam's comments. But they acknowledged they worried about a possible overreaction by U.S. military forces that could harm innocent people abroad the way innocent people here were harmed, possibly sowing the seeds for future acts of terrorism.

"There is no justification whatsoever" for the attack on the United States, said Osama Said. "The feeling of sorrow is beyond putting into words.

"But we should be calm," he added. "We want to establish justice, not establish revenge. ... We have to fight terrorism. We also have to fight the reason for the terrorism."

Israr Kasana of Baltimore echoed the sentiment.

"This is a very serious juncture. The reaction of the U.S. government is going to determine the course of history."

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