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9/11 anniversary: Muslims renew fight to prove patriotism

Muslims pray at the The Islamic Cultural Center

Muslims pray at the The Islamic Cultural Center of New York on 3rd Ave and 96th Street on the Upper East Side in Manhattan on Sunday, September 11, 2011. (RJ Mickelson/amNY) Photo Credit: Muslims pray at the The Islamic Cultural Center of New York on 9/11/11. (RJ Mickelson/amNY)

Perhaps more than any group in the country, Muslims after 9/11 were forced to prove their patriotism, as well as confront reactionary hatred that haunted their day-to-day lives.

Sunday, Muslims in New York renewed their commitment to condemn the attackers and make clear the distinction between extremism and true Islam.

"We remember that sad episode which took place 10 years with much anger, much condemnation and denunciation ... and we renew our condemnation and denunciation of what took place on that day," said Omar Abunamous, imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, who spoke during prayer service Sunday.

Abunamous also expressed a sentiment of “renewed determination that what happened will never take place again," he said.

"The Muslim community is as patriotic as any other community in the United States, and we are committed to maintaining, preserving and advancing the good interests of this country all over the world."

Indeed, the anniversary held a symbolic meaning for many Muslims, as attitudes toward them have mellowed, said Abdul Ahailq, 48, of Spanish Harlem.

"Has the anxiety toward us dissipated? I think so, to a certain extent," said Ahailq, who lost a friend in the attack on the Twin Towers, whose collapse he witnessed from Hudson Street. "Years heal wounds."

"The people that [attacked on 9/11] don't represent Islam. I think people are more intelligent than to think they represent an entire religion. Today we see that," Ahailq said.

But for many, the anniversary served as a reminder that the lives of Muslims in America have forever changed.

The International Action Center, a grassroots organization founded to oppose the wars abroad and their effects on ethnic relations, marched on City Hall Sunday to protest against what activist Tony Murphy called the "scapegoating campaign" against Muslims here to justify wars abroad.

"We are all united, and many governments are trying to divide us," said Ayman El-Sawa, a Muslim Egyptian-American who spoke at the rally.

"But we are all grieving for the people who lost their lives in 9/11," he said. "Many politicians use 9/11 to divide people ... but we only have one way to make this country better, and that is to be united."

To that end, many in New York's Muslim community saw the anniversary as something that binds people as Americans, not as Americans of different faiths.

"We have to learn as people to live among ourselves. I respect your religion, you respect mine. We'll be able to live side-by-side," said Ibrahim Annan, 50, of the Bronx.


Follow TIm Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera

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