Is concern that terrorists might be working in mosques really just “fear of the unknown”? Is an affiliation with MPAC really a palliative? From the Buffalo News, with thanks to Ali Dashti:
In the shadow of the large mosque at the corner of Sycamore and Sobieski streets, fear of the unknown sometimes occupies residents.
Muslims have bought dozens of homes, staking their property with tall, impenetrable fences.
The women journey with groceries from the market in long, flowing dresses and burkas that cover everything but their eyes. The men wear loose-fitting robes, skull caps and untrimmed beards, and walk five times a day to the mosque, Masjid Zakaria, for prayer.
Some of their non-Muslim neighbors wonder why they build their fences so high and rarely say as much as a hello.
“To me, they’re very secretive,” said Tom Zeiliski, who has lived on nearby Sweet Street for many years. “For the most part, they’re pretty quiet, but it kind of makes you a little uneasy when you don’t know.
“Some people could be hiding in this mosque. They could be hiding people in there. You don’t know,” he said.
Suspicion of Muslims lingers thick in Western New York and the rest of the country, buoyed by the 9/11 attacks, the beheading of Americans and others in the name of Islam and the arrest of Yemeni Americans in Lackawanna who had trained in al-Qaida camps.
Those doubts have prodded Muslims – here and elsewhere – into an intense struggle for the soul of Islam.
Three years after Sept. 11, 2001, Muslims in the United States are trying to raise their profile as patriotic people of faith, while distancing themselves from terrorists who act in the name of their religion.
“There is,” said Dr. Khalid Qazi, a physician who lives in Amherst, “a real disconnect in some places between what Islam is and what Muslims are.”
Qazi, who wears a trademark bow tie and a tiny American flag pinned to the lapel of his sport coat, has led the local effort to better explain Islam and the local Muslim population.
He has presented a series of 90-minute primers on Islam to FBI employees, discussing why Muslims use the term “Allah,” the ethnic breakdown of the region’s Muslims and how Islam views suicide.
Muslims also have undertaken several new initiatives aimed at inserting themselves more into the mainstream of Western New York. Those efforts include:
“¢ Affiliating with a national organization, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which professes to be moderate and progressive.
“¢ Publishing a 104-page membership and business directory for more than 400 Muslim professionals and Muslim-owned businesses in Western New York.
“¢ Embarking on a grass-roots “Campaign to Fight Terrorism,” urging mosques and Muslim community centers to be especially vigilant in reporting suspicious activity to authorities.
“¢ Hosting a “town hall” forum with some of the area’s top federal law enforcement officials to discuss combating terrorism.
Here is Daniel Pipes on Salam Al-Maryati of MPAC.