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A plea for compassion

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Americans have every right to be angry. Terrorists killed thousands of innocents in the recent attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Our rage was fanned further by the images of Palestinians conducting a victory celebration in East Jerusalem, juxtaposed against images of American national landmarks standing in rubble. We feel robbed of our security and some wonder if their lives will ever be the same again.

For many people, the immediate reaction is vengeance — seek out the party who did this and retaliate. The problem is, the nation doesn't yet know who is responsible for these insidious attacks. No one can go around pointing fingers.

But in some quarters of the nation, fear and anger has spilled over into Muslim- and Arab-American communities. Places of worship have been threatened. Death threats, racial slurs and obscenities have been uttered. Here at home, hours after Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson issued a plea Thursday for compassion for Muslim- and Arab-Americans who reside in Utah, Salt Lake police are investigating a possible hate crime after someone set fire to a Pakistani-owned restaurant.

We join the mayor in his call for understanding and empathy. Furthermore, we decry any acts of aggression or hatred demonstrated toward Muslim- and Arab-Americans during this already difficult time.

Let it be understood that all Americans suffered an unfathomable loss on Sept. 11, 2001. We each grieve for the innocents and demand recompense from the parties responsible for this unspeakable violence.

All Americans need a healing presence in their lives at this time. Let there be particular concern shown for those in our communities who will shoulder additional burdens during this time of healing by virtue of their ethnicity and religion. They, too, are Americans who deplore the terrorism and mass loss of life.

Yet, Islamic communities across the nation fear for their safety because some Americans paint followers of Islam with a broad brush. Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, identified by U.S. officials as the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks, is part of the radical fringe of Islam. His actions and those of his followers are hardly representative of the tenants of Islam, which espouse kindness, love and charity.

As Zaid Albarzinji, a member of the Utah Chapter of the American Muslim Council executive committee, explains: Pointing the finger at the entire Islamic nation for the actions of a few radicals (if indeed bin Laden was the mastermind behind the attacks) is akin to blaming millions of Christians for the actions of David Koresh. "There are radicals in every religion," he said.

As society holds American Muslims apart from radical Muslim contingents, we as Americans must take special care to embrace them as fellow Americans in our hearts and actions.