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Muslims, Allies Unite To Fight Intolerance

Angry words shouted from a Franklin Street motorist disrupted a peace vigil outside the post office Wednesday, leaving participants dumfounded and devastated.

"People are very emotionally volatile," said Dawn Peebles, a 1998 UNC graduate who attended the vigil, which was aimed at curbing retaliations after three terrorist attacks Tuesday. "There's a hysteria and it's completely irrational. It's really upsetting to hear things like that."

Some Muslims and Arab-Americans say that although there has been an outpouring of support from the community, ethnic tensions have surfaced because of the attacks.

Although it is unclear who is responsible, Osama bin Laden, an Arab linked to previous terrorist attacks against the U.S., is a suspect.

The Islamic Association of Raleigh, where many UNC Islamic students and other local Muslims go to pray, received several telephoned bomb threats Tuesday said Mohamad Boutrid, the office administrator for the mosque.

"There have been some threats and the authorities are notified," he said.

Boutrid said the association advised members to be mindful of individuals who might take revenge against local Muslims for Tuesday's attacks.

"We've received a tremendous amount of support," he said. "But at the same time we must be mindful of the backlash."

The Al-Iman, a school affiliated with the association, was shut down Tuesday and Wednesday for security reasons, Boutrid said. "The plan is to be open (today) but that could change," he said.

But Muslims are being targeted by intolerance even closer to home, despite the urging of campus leaders.

On UNC's campus, a yellow flier titled "A Frank Word about Islam," circulated in Venable Hall on Wednesday morning.

The flier, distributed by the Informed Christian News Service, contained warnings to "not be fooled by the false face which Islam puts on in nations where it does not rule."

Mohamed Zayed, a member of the Muslim Student Association, said he learned about the flier Wednesday morning from other Muslim students outside Venable Hall. "There are many other issues that are vastly misunderstood," he said. "I don't go around hating people."

Some local Arab-Americans say they are fearful of the backlash. "We're feeling the same outrage as any American," said Rania Masri, an area activist. "But we are concerned for our individual safety."

Hani Alkhaldi, president of the UNC-CH Arab Club, said he even received an anonymous, hateful message online Tuesday night. "Last night some person wrote to me `You Arabs must be destroyed for what you did,'" he said.

Alkhaldi said he was outraged and disgusted with the terrorist's actions just like every other student on campus.

"We want to help out in any way possible," he said. "We're also Americans."

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