CAIRO – Recalling past 9/11 worries, American Muslims fear a new wave of Islamophobic attacks incited by the recent wave of Muslim protests worldwide against a film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
“We get told a lot to ‘go home,' and it is sometimes very difficult to hear that,” Adam Soltani, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)'s Oklahoma Chapter, told The Oklahoman on Saturday, September 22."
A native Kansan raised in Oklahoma, Soltani said he has been told to “go home” more times that he can count following a huge wave of anti-America protests around the world over an anti-prophet film.
The film, entitled “Innocence of Muslims”, portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur’an.
The film triggered protests in several countries around the world, which left at least 14 people dead, including the US ambassador in Libya.
While condemning the provocative film, Muslim leaders around the world have denounced attacks on foreign diplomatic missions, calling for a measured response to the movie.
Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh said Saturday that attacks on foreign embassies over the film run counter to the peaceful teachings of Islam.
Though the US ambassador’s death was widely condemned by US Muslims, protests overshadowed the religious minority, fearing retaliation from non-Muslims.
Imad Enchassi, imam and president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said American Muslims grieved for their fallen countrymen just like others across the country, but their grief was laced with fear of verbal attacks, hate mail and even a violent attack at their local mosques.
“We have our own alert system and we become particularly concerned for our children,” Enchassi, 47, said.
Donning hijab, a Muslim headscarf, Jenell Mapp-Maynard, 28, operations manager for CAIR-Oklahoma, said women were easily identifiable as Muslims.
Therefore, they were getting the larger share of verbal attacks, she added.
Working hard to overcome negative reactions of protests, the Muslim minority in Oklahoma was extending their hands to the wider community.
Sheryl Siddiqui, of Tulsa, spokeswoman for the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, said her work included reassuring Oklahoma Muslims who become filled with “righteous indignation” when some non-Muslims cast Islam in a negative light.
“They wouldn't do it (violence), they condemn it, but they still get accused of it,” the spokeswoman of the council of state mosques and Islamic schools that serves more than 35,000 Muslims in Oklahoma, said.
Siddiqui accused the media of ignoring interfaith projects and day-to-day peaceful interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide, focusing only on negative examples of the Muslim community.
Dispelling myths about Islam, CAIR-Oklahoma, a Muslim advocacy organization, has recently launched a campaign to distribute free copies of a PBS documentary about Prophet Muhammad.
Soltani said the distribution of “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,” along with a new website soon to be launched, will go a long way toward educating non-Muslims about who Prophet Muhammad was and the peaceful tenets of Islam.
Soltani hopes the free documentary DVD his organization is distributing helps to combat both the anti-Islamic tone of the film and the resurgence of myths about Muslims that occurred after the Americans were killed in Libya.
He said in Oklahoma, with incidents such as a paintball attack in July on an Oklahoma City mosque more of the exception to the rule, his organization wants to share a film that depicts a balanced view of the life of Prophet.
“When the mosque was paint-balled, they got flowers (from non-Muslim supporters),” the Edmond Santa Fe High School and University of Central Oklahoma graduate said.
“We really wanted to reach out to Oklahoma because Oklahoma has shown so much kindness, love, friendliness and acceptance to us.
“We want to be accepted as part of this society, as people who contribute in a positive way.”
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