Volume 95, Issue 17

Friday, September 28, 2001
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No Sweat! Students sew for a cause

Locals fear planes, love trains

Contentious debate in BOG

Q&A with MSA president

Community ties can survive terrorism

Suspicious inquiries reinforce fears of bio-warfare

Community ties can survive terrorism

Better late than never
Erin Conway-Smith
News Editor

It's hard to hate people you know.

This statement might make more sense if I add another word to the phrase:

It's hard to hate "a" people you know.

Faisal Joseph, incoming president of the Islamic Centre of Southwestern Ontario, spoke words to this effect in explaining how important it is to convey accurate information about the religion of Islam to the London community.

"The more they know about our religion and about us, the less they have to fear," he said.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have revealed how little most North Americans know about the faith and way of life of a large segment of the world's Muslim population – 30,000 of whom live in London.

I admit that prior to the past few weeks, I knew very little myself.

What I find frightening, though not entirely surprising, is that for some, this lack of knowledge turned an unknown entity into a community-sized target for fear and anger.

Ignorance became downright dangerous as the faces of suspected terrorists glared from television sets and newspapers. The phrase "Muslim terrorists" was perverted by some to convey the untruth that "all Muslims are terrorists."

Threats, harassment and violent acts have been manifested towards some members of the Muslim community here in London, across Canada and, on a much greater scale, in the United States.

In the face of terror, community ties are tested.

By all accounts, the Western community has held together quite well – most Muslim students I spoke with said while they felt eyes were upon them, they had not experienced any direct harassment.

In the London community-at-large, incidents of harassment have been met by acts of kindness – good-hearted people trying to make amends for the misdirected anger of others.

I have been in a lucky position the last couple of weeks. Covering stories for The Gazette, I have had the opportunity to learn more about the Islamic faith by speaking to people from Western and across London.

I still don't know as much as I would like to.

But I do know the events of the past few weeks have reinforced in my mind the fact that ignorance is never bliss and knowledge is both powerful and utterly essential.

This Sunday afternoon, the London Muslim Mosque and the Islamic Centre of Southwestern Ontario are holding open houses. They are inviting non-Muslims to visit, take a tour, have some refreshments and learn about the Islam faith.

Communities tear apart in the face of tragedy if they blindly and unjustly turn against their own. A community can survive terror if it pulls together for support.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001