Some of the biggest victims of Islamic terrorism wont be found in the rubble of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.
They are North American Muslims many of whom left their homelands to get away from religious violence who are now being blamed for the terror attacks on America.
At a press conference held September 21 in Toronto, the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) cited a litany of hatred aimed at this countrys 600,000 Muslims.
In the United States, Muslims and Arabs have been targeted for beatings and even murder. While no killings have been reported in Canada, Muslims have endured death threats, vandalism and harassment.
The Muslim community is fearful, said Faisal Joseph, legal counsel for the CIC.
Other communities, he noted, also have reason to be afraid.
Recently, a Hindu temple was firebombed in Hamilton evidently by someone who thought it was a Muslim mosque. This wasnt an isolated incident either; the CIC said that Sikhs and other minorities have faced physical and verbal assaults from assailants who mistake them for Arabs.
When something of this magnitude happens, everyone is victimized, noted Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Islamic Congress.
While the doctor was referring to the situation in Canada and America, he might as well have been talking about North Africa and the Middle East.
In these parts of the world, Muslims have long been terrorized by the kind of extremism that was shown by the World Trade bombers. This is especially true in Algeria and Egypt, where Islamic militants have waged bitter internal wars.
Over the past decade, roughly 70,000 Algerians have been murdered by various terror organizations, including the Groupes islamistes armes (GIA). An Islamic extremist group, the GIA aims to overthrow the secular Algerian regime and replace it with an Islamic state, reads Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2000 a report issued by the United States Department of State. The GIA began its violent activities in early 1992 after Algiers voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) the largest Islamic party in the first round of legislative elections in December 1991.
The GIA has been known to machinegun entire villages, killing men, women and children, in a fanatic attempt to destabilize the government.
In Egypt meanwhile, an organization called the Islamic Group (IG) has also committed atrocities against its own people.
From the late 1970s through the 1990s, the IG carried out armed attacks against Egyptian security and other government officials, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian opponents of Islamic extremism states Patterns of Global Terrorism.
Another Egyptian terrorist group called Islamic Jihad was responsible for murdering President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Sadat was the Egyptian leader who became famous for making peace with Israel.
A secular organization called Black September has also perpetrated violent assaults against Arab citizens. According to the State Department report, Black Septembers enemy list includes the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, moderate Palestinians, and various Arab countries.
Such violence goes against the basic tenets of the Islamic faith, a religion that stands for humility, tolerance and pluralism.
There is no injunction in the Koran that promotes taking a life, remarked Wahida Valiante, vice-president of the CIC, at the press conference.
Few Westerners seem aware of this, however.
While U.S. President George W. Bush has said that militants who kill in the name of Allah blaspheme their faith, many North Americans continue to equate mainstream Islam with terrorism.
Such stereotyping is particularly galling, considering many Muslims emigrated to the West in order to escape persecution or harm and to have a better life, said Joseph.
They come over here and theyre picked on as targets. Thats the irony of it, he noted.
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