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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Anti-Muslim bias has no place in America



By Dr. Baher Salem Foad
Guest columnist

I read the syndicated column by Zef Chafets "In real world, Islam not so peaceful" (Aug. 10), and it clearly sends a message of hate. He cites the actions of few Muslims who are being investigated as representative of the attitude and beliefs of American Muslims. I would like to use the Muslim community in Cincinnati to illustrate the opposite viewpoint that Muslims are hard-working, peace-loving and caring members of society.

There are more than 100 physicians in Cincinnati who are dedicated and care for their patients. Muslim engineers, teachers and business people are actively involved in the affairs of their community. They are good neighbors and sincere friends. The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati opened in 1996 and has been a great asset to our community. More than 30,000 visitors have been welcomed and toured our facility, as well as countless number of school and college students, and members of churches and synagogues. Our center is open to the public and we have nothing to hide. We have welcomed priests and rabbis, and our members have visited many churches and schools and answered questions about our faith and beliefs.

I have been active, as well as others, in interfaith dialogue and in working with civil organizations like the National Conference for Community and Justice and the Bruggeman Center at Xavier University, and have served on the boards of these structures. Muslims have lectured at the University of Cincinnati, Xavier and Hebrew Union College. Muslims have worked on social projects along with people of other faiths. Muslims have cherished their freedom and work with others to safeguard the liberties of everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Stereotyping Muslims and propagating a message of hate serves no useful purpose. On the contrary, we should respect the rights and intentions of others and not allow differences of faith prejudice our attitude or behavior. It is the diversity of our nation and its tolerance and freedom that is the real strength of America and what makes our country great. Bias, prejudice and hate have no place in our community or our beloved America. We should judge people by what they do, not by their skin color or religious affiliation.

Those who distort the message of Islam for their own purpose should be exposed and fought. We should no longer sit idle watching our freedom attacked. It is not only the duty of Muslims, but of decent non-Muslims, to stand up and speak against prejudice and hate.

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Dr. Baher Salem Foad of Madeira is a practicing arthritis specialist and director of education at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Township.




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