MIAMI | Almost immediately after Islamic militant Osama bin Laden’s name scrolled across television screens as a “suspect” in Tuesday’s attacks, threats began coming in over the phone at the Darul Uloom Institute, one of the largest mosques in South Florida.
Police arrived, Muslim schoolchildren were sent home and Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, the spiritual leader of the mosque, immediately hired security for Friday, the Muslim sabbath.
Now Mohamed has something he wants President Bush to tell America:
“Make sure not to accuse the whole Muslim world, because these people do not represent the Muslim world. They have their own political agenda, a vindictive agenda.”
No one had claimed responsibility for the attacks late Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Muslims across the country were fearful on two fronts: one over the tragedy that had devasted the United States, the other that, once again, they would suffer backlash from terrorist acts linked to Islamic extremists.
“After damning them all to hell for what they’ve done, we’ll join with the rest of America and express our outrage,” said James Zogby, director and founder of the Arab American Institute in Washington, D.C.
“And at the same time, unfortunately, we’ll have to look over our shoulders to see who’s pointing at our back.”
Tayyaba Khan, director of the daycare program at Darul Uloom, said she hoped Americans remembered one thing before they cast a suspicious eye.
“You don’t know how many Muslims died in those buildings, too,” she said.
The Darul Uloom Institute, which runs a school through the sixth grade in east Pembroke Pines, Fla., will also be closed today.
“We are keeping a special eye on that,” said Pembroke Pines police Capt. David Golt.
Students at the NUR-UL-Islam academy in Cooper City, Fla., were also sent home Tuesday. A mosque in Orlando, Fla., was reportedly damaged and, in Tampa, Fla., police arrived at a Muslim school to ensure safety.
Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies checked in with the Islamic Center of Pompano Beach, according to Noah Mustafa at the center. Mustafa, who is Palestinian, said the center had not received threats.
The center released a statement: “American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism again innocent civilians.”
South Florida’s Muslims are diverse in race and ethnicity. Many come from the West Indies, while others are African, Palestinian and Pakistanian.
At El-Salam restaurant in Plantation, a group of Palestinians condemned the attacks.
“We all like America. If we didn’t why would be here?” said Omar Sarsour, a restaurant patron from South Miami.
In Miami, Muslims gathered at mosques to express outrage at the attacks on the country they call home.
“We are sorry that it happened and reject this kind of terrorism against innocent people,” said Mian Subhani president of the Muslim Communities Association, which administers two mosques in Miami-Dade County. “We’re very concerned because people always think it’s Muslims when there’s a terrorist attack and we’ll have to be more careful when we go out.”
Tasnim Uddin, a civil engineer in Miami-Dade, said the terrorists ultimately will be punished.
“Even if they escape this life without punishment, in the next, Allah will punish them,” Uddin said. “My concern is that what the media did after the Oklahoma City bombings where they sterotyped the Muslims and labeled them terrorists will be repeated again.”
Uddin says he prays that is not the case, for the sake of his children.
It was a sentiment heard over and over Tuesday.
“Now all people wearing the head coverings, hijab, and beards, Islamic dress code, are going to be likely targets for the actions of those people,” said Mohamed, of Darul Uloom. “It’s a very very scary thing, it’s horrible and will live for years and years.”
Sofian Abdelaziz, director of American Muslim Association of North America, recoiled at images of children rejoicing in other countries.
“Anyone who is happy is crazy,” he said.
Abdelaziz said as Americans and Muslims they plan to do anything they can to help the victims and their families and plan to organize a blood drive.
“We don’t like to see blood and we are offering to give our blood,” he said.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Washington, said, “We’re already getting reports _ harassment of women who wear head scarves, or Islamic attire. There was an attack on a Muslim cab driver in Manassas, Va.”
The organization called on Muslims nationwide to offer whatever assistance they can to help the victims, including asking Muslim medical professionals to go to the scenes of the attacks to offer aid and comfort. They urged Muslims to donate blood. That also urged people to report anti-Muslim harassment and attacks.