By Colin Relihan Hoya Staff Writer

While the Muslim community of Georgetown has shared the grief and disbelief of the rest of the country over the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, it has faced mounting safety concerns in the wake of rising anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment countrywide.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslims throughout the Georgetown community have joined fellow students, staff and faculty in mourning the loss of life at various prayer services, vigils and other events. They joined the rest of the university in expressing sadness over the destruction and loss of life wrought by the terrorist strikes.

“I was devastated, in shock and in grief,” Maisoon Al-Suwaidan (SFS ’03) said. “We are American just like you are. We are just as devastated.”

The Muslim Student Association has also held several prayer services of its own since Tuesday, attended by members of the university’s Muslim community and non-Muslims as well. In the District, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has coordinated several Muslim student organizations from area universities in assisting its blood drive, which started Wednesday at George Washington University.

However, since the strikes in New York and Washington, the media and the government have focused primarily on Muslim suspects and states, especially Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been accused of harboring bin Laden, who is the suspected author of several terrorist attacks against the United States in the Middle East. Many Muslims on campus feel that this has contributed to rising anti-Muslim sentiments across the country.

“The media has clearly been biased against Muslims,” Georgetown Muslim Chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi said. “I believe the media is inflaming the crisis.”

Anti-Muslim sentiments have lead to the verbal and physical harassment of numerous individuals of perceived Arab descent or uslim background, as well as several attacks on mosques throughout the U.S. Meanwhile, Internet chat rooms are littered with messages displaying anti-Arab slurs and insults.

“I’m afraid that progress for Muslims will turn back [because of the terrorist actions],” Sadaf Jaffer (SFS ’05) said. “Something as terrible as this can trigger something worse.”

In Georgetown, there have been no reports of verbal or physical harassment of Muslim students since the attacks, according to Daryl Harrison of the Department of Public Safety. Nonetheless, there is increased anxiety among Muslim students that they will receive threats or be attacked.

Hendi referred to hate crimes directed against Muslims after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994 – when many in the media, government and rest of the country initially suspected Middle Eastern terrorists – as a reason for caution. Both Hendi and the MSA have warned Muslim students to be careful and stay in groups to deter any potential threats.

“It’s unfortunate that Muslims are being attacked. We are grieving as much as anyone else,” said Owais Balti (MSB ’02), president of the MSA.

Because of the potential for harassment and attacks, the MSA and Hendi have stepped up their efforts to reach out to the Muslim community, which numbers several hundred undergraduate and graduate students. The MSA is scheduling several more prayer gatherings and vigils, although a dinner for Thursday evening was cancelled partially because of safety concerns. Hendi also said he would hold more retreats, nightlong prayers and social activities to comfort uslim students in the upcoming semester.

In an effort to support Muslims on campus, several employees and faculty have attended MSA events. The representatives of several religions attended MSA’s Wednesday’s prayer service, including Pat Conroy, S.J.; Adam Bunnell, O.F.M.; Orthodox Chaplain Rev. Constantine White and Rabbi Mark Robbins. University President John J. DeGioia spoke to Muslim students during the Tuesday gathering.

“We are very grateful of the Georgetown community,” Balti said. “Students have approached us and supported us.”

Balti added that the MSA was planning an event with the Jewish Student Association, likely a prayer service or vigil, over the weekend. The MSA has also scheduled an interfaith prayer gathering for today at 1:30 p.m. in the Copley Formal Lounge to mourn the tragedy. Hendi said that Muslims at Georgetown and throughout the country were horrified at the strikes, which are contrary to the true beliefs of Islam.

“God has honored all human beings. How can one dishonor what God has honored?” Hendi said.

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