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From the heart

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    From the heart

    By Caryle Murphy
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, October 6, 2001; Page A01

    Shortly after last month's terrorist attacks, two bricks ferried
    handwritten notes with crude, racist remarks through the front window
    of the Old Town Islamic Bookstore in Alexandria. Store manager Hazim
    Barakat was angry and frazzled. The Palestinian immigrant also was
    unprepared for what happened next.

    About 15 bouquets of flowers and more than 50 cards -- some with
    money -- arrived at his store. People from as far away as Tennessee
    and Nebraska called with condolences. A local businessman, who would
    not give Barakat his name, paid for a new window. Christian ministers
    and a rabbi dropped by to express their support.

    "The people in the neighborhood were so nice you don't believe," said
    Barakat, 44, who runs the store for the American Muslim
    Foundation. "This is like another family I have. This is my big
    family. I want to thank everybody."

    Terrorism and bigotry, it seems, can have unintended consequences.

    Across the Washington area and the nation, many Muslims say that
    since Sept. 11, they have been encouraged and comforted by unexpected
    acts of kindness from communities and individuals. In subdivisions,
    stores, restaurants and offices, non-Muslims have approached them
    with hugs, handshakes, moral support -- even the sanctuary of their
    own homes -- as well as apologies for attacks by others.

    "The love and support we got from the community was overwhelming,"
    said Mohamed Magid, 36, imam of All Dulles Area Muslim Society in
    Herndon, describing the response after someone spray-painted anti-
    Muslim obscenities in the hallway outside the mosque's prayer room.

    Neighboring churches wanted to pay for the damage. Members of
    Shorshim, a Jewish congregation in Reston, hand-delivered a poster of
    support. Local women volunteered to shop for Muslim women too afraid
    to go out. Magid was invited to speak at nearby churches.

    "My appreciation for my neighbors, my country and people of faith has
    increased," said Magid, who is from Sudan. "I think we came out of
    this stronger, more caring, more appreciative of one another. And
    even more tolerant."

    Many reports have suggested that tolerance was a casualty in the
    devastation at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Middle
    Eastern-looking men have been ejected from airliners on concerns by
    nervous pilots and passengers, and Muslim women wearing Islamic head
    scarves have been forced off roads by other drivers.

    The U.S. Department of Justice has opened about 100 criminal
    investigations into "ethnically motivated" acts of violence --
    including three deaths -- since Sept. 11, a spokesman said.

    Still, a steady stream of e-mail to the D.C.-based Council on
    American-Islamic Relations reveals another kind of story.

    Nada Hamoui, who lives near Tampa, wrote that two days after the
    attacks, she found a red rose on her office desk with a card that
    said, "From one American to another." It came from a patient of her
    physician husband. "I held it," she wrote, "and I cried."

    The Islamic Center in Athens, Ohio, reported being mailed a $100
    check from a non-Muslim couple who wrote that "we are all one
    people." In San Diego, the Islamic Center said it was "flooded with
    letters and cards of support." And Olga Benedetto, a 27-year-old
    student at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, e-mailed an offer
    of "help for those in the Chicago area needing groceries or other
    needs. . . . I understand that some of you are afraid to leave your

    Similar sentiments have been evident around Washington. Egyptian-born
    Ahmed Heshmat, a doctor who lives near Rockville, said that his wife,
    Jenane, was shopping recently with their two young daughters
    when "the manager came running up to her and gave the girls a gift.
    It turned out to be pencils and papers. He said it was just to show

    In Manassas, a local interfaith group contacted Prince William
    County's Muslim Association of Virginia with an offer to guard its
    mosque, said association President Yaqub Zargarpur, a businessman who
    came from Afghanistan 20 years ago. "They said they had families
    offering their homes to anyone who did not feel safe," Zargarpur
    added. "I am so proud of Prince William County."

    Four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Adisra Jittipun, a Muslim woman
    who wears a head scarf, stopped at Chason's Country Buffet in
    Winchester, Va., with two non-Muslim girlfriends.

    About 10 minutes after they began eating, a waitress came over. "It
    was kind of our first assumption that she was possibly going to kick
    us out," recalled Jittipun, a 23-year-old senior at George Mason
    University. Instead, she handed them the $30 they had paid for their
    food, saying the restaurant wanted to give them a free meal.

    "She knelt by our table and was very sympathetic . . . saying that
    she didn't want us to go to war," Jittipun recalled. The waitress
    also "said she was very proud that I had the strength to wear the
    Islamic attire. . . . I was very happy about that," Jittipun
    added. "And once she left, she was actually in tears. She just walked
    away in tears. And everybody was silent."

    Patricia Morris, of Falls Church, said it was a walk with her son the
    day after the attacks that got her wondering about her Muslim
    neighbors. As they passed Dar al-Hijrah mosque, "it was the first
    time I ever saw the iron gates closed, and I wondered what kind of
    threats they were feeling," she recalled.

    Morris called a Palestinian neighbor. "She told me, 'We're not doing
    too well. We're all very scared,' " said Morris, 48.

    So when President Bush declared the Friday after the attacks a day of
    mourning, Morris went into action, leafleting her subdivision of Lee
    Boulevard Heights with invitations to a 7 p.m. candlelight vigil of
    solidarity outside the mosque. More than 30 people attended. In
    appreciation, a few Muslims who had been at evening prayers there
    emerged and distributed white roses to the vigil's participants.

    Anwar Al-Awlaki, imam of Dar al-Hijrah, said the mosque has had
    other "very positive" responses from neighbors. Eighty tenants of the
    nearby Woodlake Towers apartment building sent a statement: "We want
    your congregation to know that we welcome you in this community . . .
    and wish you health, security and prosperity."

    And George Chiplock, principal of Corpus Christi, a Catholic
    elementary school three blocks from the mosque, brought it more than
    450 cards made by students. "We teach respect, tolerance and love of
    neighbor here," Chiplock said, "and we thought it would be a good
    idea to contact our neighbors and let them know we are thinking of

    Linda Jasper, an English teacher at Rockville's Magruder High School,
    also was spurred to reach out. She and some friends decided that they
    would stand guard at night for a week outside the nearby Islamic
    Center of Maryland to make sure it was left undisturbed. "The idea of
    someone being afraid to pray," she said, "is crazy to me."

    When the Muslim Student Association at Magruder found out, they sent
    Jasper a thank-you note. "Not only were you protecting a mosque that
    many Muslims consider another home," they wrote, "but you were doing
    it at a time when it is a dangerous and hazardous situation."

    Magruder senior Karim Baz, 17, whose parents emigrated from Egypt,
    said that his friends at school "came up to me and said, 'Karim, if
    anyone is saying anything to you, you just come to us.' To feel that,
    after all this, I'm being accepted, it's great."

    His feelings are shared by Pakistani-born doctor Abid Khan, 41, who
    said he was nervous about going to pray at his Richmond mosque the
    Friday after the attacks. But then he found about 50 people from a
    Presbyterian church there, holding up banners extolling unity.

    "Seeing these gestures gave us a feeling of comfort and peace," Khan
    said. "You have to give the credit to the people who are keeping a
    positive, friendly attitude. That's what makes America great. It's
    not its military or its advances in science. It's the kindness,
    affection, helpfulness and tolerance which is found in the large
    majority of people here. That's really what makes America great."

    2001 The Washington Post Company

    very few people have the courage to overcome their emotions and think from a different angle.

    We oughta be Changez like, don't we?


      GFQ nice post.

      But for a moment I thought it was straight from your heart i.e. your synopsis...too often people post huge threads and dissapear. I for one would gain alot more insight by your views. Read the post and relay your thoughts. Or forget the post lets have some real news/stories theres enough people that use this site...lets write about our own experiences.