Islamic civil rights group in U.S. issues safety tips as war in Iraq looms


Monday, March 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A national Islamic civil rights group e-mailed safety information to mosques and community centers Monday fearing a backlash against Muslims if there's a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The information, including tips such as how to handle bomb threats and secure mosques, was sent out as the United States, Britain and Spain ended diplomatic efforts in the United Nations to disarm Saddam Hussein.

“If we start to see Americans being killed or injured or if there is a terrorist attack anywhere in the world targeting American interests we are concerned there will be a backlash,” said Hodan Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

According to the Washington-based council, about a half-dozen incidents targeting Arab-Americans and Muslims have occurred in recent weeks in California, Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon and South Carolina.

The incidents involved beatings of people perceived to be Muslim and Arab, racial slurs and windows broken at a mosque.

“To the average American, they don't know the difference between Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or American Muslims,” said Ahmed Bedier, a spokesman in the council's Florida office. “They think that all Muslims are the enemy, and that's really unfortunate.”

The group's safety tips were e-mailed across the country and posted on the council's Web site. Hassan said FBI offices across the country have also talked with local Muslim leaders to discuss security.

“Protecting the civil rights of all Americans remains the top priority of the FBI,” agency spokeswoman Sara Oates said.

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Council on American-Islamic Relations