Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Kits prepare Muslims for backlash



By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group is distributing this week 3,000 "community safety kits" that are to help American Muslims, Arab-Americans and those who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent better handle ethnic profiling or hate crimes during the war with Iraq.

The nine-page kits are being circulated throughout Greater Cincinnati's Muslim community. But some of the region's 15,000 Muslims doubt their ability to stop the backlash - especially as American soldiers die.

"Sometimes it's easy to look for a scapegoat for those who may harbor stereotypes in their mind," said Dr. Inayat Malik of the Islamic Center in West Chester.

"Even though there were a number of Muslims killed in the Twin Towers, there was a backlash against people of Muslim faith and Middle East origin. We certainly hope that we ... have learned from it and won't be defeated."

Local Muslims reported that their lives changed after Sept. 11. The Islamic Center received several threatening phone calls.

Strangers on the street called them names and told them to go back to their country. This happened despite many of the Muslims being born in the United States and living in Greater Cincinnati for decades.

"We're certainly praying that there are no incidents of backlash at any Arab-Americans in the United States," Malik said.

The safety kit provides such tips as:

• Reporting suspicious activity in your community.

• Developing a legal and emergency contact list.

• Developing positive relationships with law enforcement agencies.

• Meeting with elected officials to discuss community concerns.

• Reporting all incidents of anti-Muslim hate to the FBI.

"These are pro-active steps that they can take to protect against backlash," said Hodan Hassan, national communications coordinator for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It was important that we just prepare for the war and hope for the best."

To get a copy of the report, visit www.cair-net.org.




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