The Cinncinnati Post
TOLEDO - Doctors, business owners and religious leaders
who make up this industrial city's thriving Muslim community say
they're not worried about a backlash against them after terrorism
charges were leveled against three residents who share their religion."Other
places are worse but Toledo's good," said Ahmad Rachidi, 44, an
insurance salesman. "The Arabic community here is big, a few thousand,
and they're involved in...
In other cities, terror
arrests in the U.S. and attacks overseas have triggered vandalism, hate
mail and attacks against Arab Americans.
Florida and Missouri were targeted by vandals two years ago after the
beheadings of two American businessmen in the Middle East. Anti-Muslim
signs popped up in a New Jersey neighborhood where one victim had lived.
there's a watershed event, we see hate crimes peak," said Arsalan
Iftikhar, legal affairs director for the Washington-based Council on
It would be unusual for there not to be some backlash, he said.
longer a Muslim community has been around in a certain area, the more
integrated and accepted they become in the general fabric," he said.
Muslims in Toledo helped authorities in the investigation, that should
go "a long way in changing attitudes," Iftikhar said.
sadness and anger ripped through the community last week when the
government accused Wassim I. Mazloum, 24, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 43,
and Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers overseas
and harboring or concealing terrorists. All three lived in Toledo
within the last year. They have all pleaded not guilty.
in the Muslim community said the arrests have not led to any general
anti-Muslim sentiment so far, and they're hopeful it will stay that way.
are about 6,000 Muslims in Toledo. The Arab-American community that
produced actor Jamie Farr and entertainer Danny Thomas has been rooted
in the city for generations.
Many of those living
here today are second and third generation Arab Americans whose parents
and grandparents migrated to the city along western Lake Erie to work
in its auto and glass factories.
"We have judges, we
have lawyers, we have doctors," said John Shousher, an Arab-American
businessman who moved here 53 years ago. "We are part of the community."
They've crossed into politics and entertainment too.
and Thomas, both born to Lebanese parents, grew up here. Former mayor
Michael Damas, who took office in 1959, was thought to be one of the
first Arab Americans elected mayor of a large U.S. city. "This
relationship has built up slowly over the last 60 to 70 years," said
Mohammed Ahmad, a trauma surgeon who is also president of United Muslim
Association of Toledo.
Rachidi, who was born in
Lebanon and moved here 25 years ago, is married to a white woman born
in America. He said such marriages have helped cross-cultural
"Here, nobody bothers you. The community is very close," he said.
the Toledo suburb of Perrysburg, people of all faiths rallied to
support members of The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in the days
following the 2001 terrorist attacks. Founded in the 1950s, the mosque
is believed to be one of the oldest in the nation.
About 2,000 people held hands in a circle around the mosque's towering dome, one of the area's most recognizable structures.
Farooq S. Aboelzahab, imam and director of the center, said he's praying the community reacts just as peacefully now.
"We are very well known to the community at large and are very committed to working together," he said.
He said Shiite and Sunni Muslims pray together at the mosque as do whites and blacks and the American-born and foreign-born.
"We rely on the community, their understanding," he said. "Because ... we have a big, supportive community here."