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New York Muslims Mourn - 2001-09-15


Friday was a national day of mourning in the United States, and the faithful from most of the world's religions gathered in their houses of worship to pray for peace and healing in the aftermath of the worst terrorist strike in American history. In New York, a service was held for Muslims at the city's pre-eminent mosque.

At an lengthy worship service attended by up to 1,000 Muslims and several interfaith sympathizers - including the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Jewish and Christian leaders - Sheikh Mohammed Gemeaha denounced Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

He said, "on behalf of the Muslim people of New York, the United States and around the world, we wish to express our deepest collectie grief and massive sympathy for the horrific loss, property and human dignity."

He continued by saying that: "Such inhuman acts, in the final analysis, are directed against all humanity, against civilization, against all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike."

Ayesha Mohammed, a devout Muslim who prayed separately with other women in the traditional Islamic way, described her reaction to Tuesday's catastrophes. "Like everyone else," she said, "[I am] shocked and dismayed and [am] hoping that there will be as few casualties as possible and hoping that a serious investigation can be done.... but also hoping that it will be possible to look for the causes of this. What are the reasons?"

Another traditional Muslim who declined to give her name wants to remind the world that many Muslims have also suffered in this tragedy. She says that, because of this, they also deserve compassion and are in a position to offer it to those of other faiths who grieve.

"They are looking and searching for their family members and they are suffering just like everybody else is," said the woman. "It's a human problem. Islam is totally submission to the Lord. There is no race color or creed. It's a religion of humanity. So when one suffers, everybody suffers."

Baher Shaarawy is a case in point. He was born in Egypt, but emigrated to the U.S as a young man and made a career for himself in government. His office was high up in the First Tower of World Trade Center. Mr. Shaarawy was on his way to work when the building was struck, burst into flames and collapsed , but lost all his co-workers in the tragedy. He is worried about a deepening backlash against Arab-Americans that has already affected his family.

"Actually, I felt pain that I lost my office and my colleagues, but at the same time, I have additional pain because I am a Muslim," he said. "My kids cannot go to school. I have kids that cannot go to colleges and schools now because they are afraid.... We are Arab-Americans, we are part of the society, we felt the pain and we live together and we work together here and we have to fight terrorism all over the world. And everybody has to cooperate on this."

Many Muslims at the service expressed the hope that, if American rage, grief and the desire for revenge continue to intensify as expected in the weeks ahead, Americans will also remember their own cherished spiritual values of tolerance, compassion and impartial justice.

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