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The Daily Tar Heel

Local Arabs, Muslims Gain Student Support

Senior Kristin Rawls, president of the International Justice Mission, organized the meeting in the Campus Y lobby to increase awareness about actions and threats against Arabs and Muslims in the past week.

The Ali-Iman, an Islamic school in Raleigh, closed last Tuesday and Wednesday after threats were called in.

Rawls said she was disturbed and ashamed of the way people have been reacting to last week's violent events. "We owe it to (the Muslim community) to promise our support as well as an assurance of safety," she said.

With visions of a more united University atmosphere, those who gathered at Sunday's meeting decided to form the Peace and Reconciliation Network. The group will work to eradicate negative feelings toward Arabs and Muslims in the community.

Members of a number of student groups on campus attended the meeting, representing such organizations as the International Justice Mission, Campus Y, the Muslim Student Association, the UNC Arab Club and Students United for a Responsible Global Environment.

The network proposed a number of plans to combat ignorance on campus and in the community, including the organization of a professor- and student-led information forum. The forum would be presented at other universities to try and educate people about the difference between the Islamic faith and terrorism.

Another idea was a T-shirt and button campaign with slogans showing opposition to any resentment directed toward Arabs and Muslims in connection with Tuesday's attacks.

Rawls said the group might also organize a letter-writing campaign advocating anti-hate crimes legislation. She said the members plan to write letters to President Bush objecting to the use of bombs in response to the terrorist attacks.

As a way for the community to gather and support each other, Rawls said the group proposed to organize a solidarity march composed of students and community members.

Raj Panjabi, co-president of the Campus Y, said people need to watch where they place blame for the attacks. "People want someone to blame, and, while this is natural, we all need to realize that the Arab and Muslim Americans that live here are not related in any way to the attacks that occurred last Tuesday," he said. "We are reacting to the act instead of the people who performed the attack, and they are a small representation of the Arabs and Muslims as a whole."

After the meeting, many of the coalition members walked to the Mediterranean Deli, showing both financial and moral support to owner Jamil Kadoura, an immigrant from Jerusalem.

Kadoura, who welcomed the coalition, returned their support. "This is the greatest thing I've seen this year in this town," he said. "People have been going out of their way to be nice, and I really believe this town is showing their support, in light of occurrences in other towns and cities."

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