A flood of support for Muslims

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) -- Linda Lavin threw her arms around Abdul Qadir and said she was sorry someone threatened the Islamic Idriss Mosque, where he worships. Then she hugged the federal agents investigating the case.

''We need to look within ourselves and find peace, not hate,'' she said.

Her sentiment was a common one in north Seattle and across the state on Friday, a day after a man poured gasoline in the mosque's parking lot, fired a gun into the ground and rammed his car into a utility pole as he drove off.

A steady stream of well-wishers brought flowers and cards to the 21-year-old mosque, which has become a symbol of tolerance following Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Qadir received the blessings graciously.

''My neighbors are very kind,'' he said. ''We have the same feelings. We are the same creation of God.''

Mayor Paul Schell and Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske offered to provide security to the city's mosques, with officers stationed at every mosque and Muslim community center in the city.

''We're there to ensure there is religious freedom in this city and it will be protected,'' Schell said.

The incident at Idriss was one of a handful of anti-Islamic acts reported in the past few days. In SeaTac, a cab driver with a beard and a turban was assaulted Thursday night after he picked up two men at a bar.

One of the men, 31, called the cabbie a ''butcher terrorist'' and tried to choke him, the King County Sheriff's Office said Friday. The cabbie escaped from the vehicle, but the man punched him in the face, knocked off his turban and yanked out a chunk of his beard.

The cabbie flagged down a Port of Seattle police officer, who arrested the passenger for investigation of malicious harassment, a felony. His friend was arrested on an unrelated warrant.

In Spokane, about 200 people attended an interfaith service Friday at a small Islamic Center that serves as a mosque. Rabbi Jacob Izakson of Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane was among clergy and politicians who prayed along with Christians and Muslims during the 30-minute service.

''We are ashamed of fanaticism, just like other citizens are,'' Alaaeldin Aamer, vice president of the Spokane Islamic Center, told the crowd, many of whom wore crucifixes or yarmulkes. ''America is America, and America is a great and good country. Allah does help her.''

In Snohomish County, a 41-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, also for investigation of malicious harassment, after he pounded on and spit at a car driven by a woman of Middle Eastern descent on Tuesday, sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Jorgensen said.

King County prosecutors filed malicious harassment charges Friday against Lawrence John Steele, 40, of Seattle, accused of walking into the Southwest Seattle Islamic Center on Tuesday and threatening to burn it down. Steele's arraignment was set for Sept. 25.

The Dar Alarqam Mosque in suburban Lynnwood, where vandals defaced a sign with black paint on Tuesday, has since been deluged with cards, flowers and visitors.

The man arrested in the Idriss incident, Patrick Cunningham, 53, of Kenmore, was in satisfactory condition with facial cuts at Harborview Medical Center on Friday, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said. He was expected to remain overnight under police watch and was to be charged early next week.

Agent Arthur Ahrens with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who was gathering evidence at the mosque, said the man could face federal charges as well.

Police Chief Kerlikowske said that after Tuesday's attacks, officers were given the addresses of mosques and Islamic centers in the city, as well as maps of those neighborhoods. That preparation helped police respond quickly Thursday night, he said.

Some area churches offered 24-hour safety patrols to mosques. The Church Council of Greater Seattle condemned the threats.

Several Islamic centers and mosques reported receiving threatening or obscene phone calls. The Islamic School of Seattle called off classes this week, said acting principal Ann El-Moslimany.

But, she said, the school had been overwhelmed by messages of support from its neighbors, including a church and a school in the area. She said reasonable people don't blame extremist actions on mainstream religion.

''The Ku Klux Klan has the cross as their symbol, and the Bible,'' she said. ''Nobody blames Christianity when they do something.''

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