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MUSLIMS IN U.S. SAY ISLAM-TERRORIST LINK UNFAIR

Every time a bomb goes off and the word "Islam" is brought up, Muslims in the United States cringe.

And they lament that their religion is an almost automatic suspect when it comes to terrorist acts."This is the kind of thing we need to correct," said Hafez Turk, a Muslim who lives in the Phoenix area. "It's unfair."

Middle Eastern men were mentioned as possible suspects in Wednesday's bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

But Turk wonders how witnesses knew the men were Middle Eastern and how they knew the men weren't just passing by like so many others.

"They could be Colombians, Mexicans or what not. There are a lot of dark-skinned people, and sometimes you cannot tell them apart," he said.

Muslims also bristle at the media's willingness to almost automatically link a terrorist act with their religion.

"There is no such thing, NO SUCH THING, as Islamic terrorism," said Imam Abdur-Rahim Sham-siddeen, spiritual adviser at the Jewel of the Desert Mosque in Phoenix.

"The Koran clearly points it out: `Let there be no force, let there be no compulsion in the religion of Islam.' "

The Koran, the Muslims' holy book, makes it clear that they are to be a peace-loving and life-respecting people who are tolerant of all religious faiths.

"Those people who follow the Koran, how can they be terrorists?" Shamsiddeen said. "We condemn, whether it's Jews, Christians or Muslims, any type of terrorist act, especially the taking of innocent lives.

"To blow up babies like that? That is all-out madness."

Turk added, "We believe in principles. We pray five times a day. We don't kill children. We don't kill people. The Muslims believe in a principle of justice for everyone."

For that reason, Muslims become even angrier toward those terrorists, such as the ones in the World Trade Center bombing in New York, who would dare tarnish Islam by claiming that such deeds are justified by the faith.