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Local Muslims condemn "heinous act"
Seattle Times staff reporters
As news spread that the gunman at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle said he was a Muslim angry at Israel, local Muslims condemned the violence.
They also feared the act could lead to a violent backlash against Muslims.
"Everyone's talking about it. Everyone's upset about it," said Ann El-Moslimany, a community leader. "They're concerned that when anything like this happens, people say: 'Oh yeah, the Muslims,' and how it comes back on all the Muslims, especially nowadays. But most of all, they're upset that people died."
Jewish Federation shooting
Gunman: Naveed Haq
Aziz Junejo, a community leader and a Seattle Times Faith & Values page columnist, said he heard some mosques were increasing security and opening during prayer times only.
Hisham Farajallah, director of Idriss Mosque in Northgate, said repeated references to a "Muslim American" on the news prompted him to cancel a Friday-evening event at the mosque. "All they keep saying is Muslim American, Muslim American, Muslim American. It's very unfortunate."
An Arab American Community Coalition peace march that had been scheduled for today in Kirkland to call for a cease-fire in the Middle East was postponed for safety concerns. Instead, some organizers from a variety of Arab, Jewish and Palestinian groups took questions from the media.
"People in the community are worried," said Rita Zawaideh, of the Arab American Community Coalition. Zawaideh said Friday's shootings triggered memories of hate crimes that occurred in Seattle after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Police presence has increased in Seattle-area mosques, she said.
Majdi Daher, an organizer of the postponed march said the local Arab American community was shocked about Friday's shootings and hoped it was an isolated incident.
"Our community does not support violence," said Majdi Daher.
"I was very, very angry about the incident that happened yesterday," Daher said. "That's not the message the world needs to see at this time."
"It was a big slap in the face ... of all our efforts," Daher said. "This is a negative representation of what Muslims are."
"People who use religion as a mask to do something violent are absolute cowards," he said.
Rami Al-Kabra, president of the Seattle Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the group condemns "this heinous act in the strongest possible terms."
There are fringe elements in every community, he said, noting that mosques in some areas of the country had pigs' heads rolled inside and some were shot at. "Just as strongly as we condemn these acts against Muslims, we condemn this act against the Jewish Federation, and we pray for the safety and health of the victims."
Several local Muslim groups, including CAIR, issued a statement saying: "There is no room for such acts of violence in our city and community. When one of us is attacked, none of us are safe. We refuse to see the violence in the Middle East spill over to our cities and neighborhoods."
At a rally Friday evening at Westlake Park protesting Israeli actions in Lebanon, Ziyad Zaitoun, 52, a civil engineer, said the act was committed by a single violent individual.
"It doesn't matter if he is Jewish, Christian or Muslim — he's a nutcase," Zaitoun said. "He shot a human being, and it doesn't matter his personal or political agenda, he shot innocent people."
But "any time something like this happens — especially against the state of Israel or people connected to the state of Israel — we fear for our lives" as Muslims, Zaitoun said.
He said another person at the rally advised him to go home for fear of backlash.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or email@example.com
Staff reporter Charlotte Hsu contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company