Friday, May 12, 2006

Tucson Region
Muslims worried by tirade after film

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 05.05.2006

The verbal abuse of three young Muslim women in Scottsdale by a couple who had just seen "United 93" is stirring concern among the Arizona Islamic community that the film will reignite furor at their faith.
"Generally, what we try to do is turn a negative into a positive, so if there's a good initiative to take to educate people to show we're not responsible for violence or terrorism, that's what we will be looking at doing," said Bushra Khan, office manager of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Arizona chapter, based in Phoenix. About 60,000 Muslims live in Arizona — about 8,000 of them in the Tucson area.
Khan, 24, was one of the three young women who say they were shopping at the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Scottsdale on April 29 — all of them wearing burqas, or head scarves — when they were approached by a middle-aged couple who asked if they were Muslim.
Khan said she always welcomes inquiries about her faith and was happy to tell the couple yes. But what happened next was a shock, she said.
According to Khan, the couple said they'd seen the movie "United 93" and then told the women to take off their burqas, swore at them, and told them to get out of the country. The couple quickly left and the women did not file a police report.
"United 93," released last week, re-creates the flight of the fourth and final plane hijacked by Islamist terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
"The couple's verbal abuse had obviously been prompted by their associating all Muslims with those who took part in the 9/11 terror attacks," Khan said. "The best way to prevent this type of stereotyping and intolerance is to educate ordinary Americans of all faiths about Islam and Muslims."
Khan said the council could reignite campaigns similar to those it sponsored post-9/11, among them "Not in the Name of Islam" public service announcements rejecting terrorism and religious extremism, and the ongoing "Explore the Life of Muhammad" initiative, which offers free DVDs and books on the life and legacy of Islam's prophet and founder. The council also continues to offer free copies of its holy book, the Quran.
"Hopefully, a lot of Muslim and diversity organizations will be holding information sessions and education sessions to let people know Muslims are just like everyone else — we want peace and happiness," said Sarah Dehaybi, president of the Muslim Students Association at the University of Arizona, which has a listserv of 300 and staffs a Muslim information table on the UA Mall every week. "Sept. 11 was a horrible event, but since then a lot of people have been getting an education about Islam, so I'm hoping the reaction to the movie overall will not be bad."
Na'eem abdul Wali, imam of the Al Kawthar Institute, an Islamic education center on the Northwest Side, had not heard of any adverse local reaction to the film, which he expects to see in the next day or two.
"I'm going to go with my turban on. I am interested to see what happens," he said. "I don't know how well the movie represents the truth, but at the end of the day I would think it's going to have some effect on people and how they view the Muslim community."
● Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at Go to for other recent religion coverage

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