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Oklahoma Muslim leaders dealt with stereotypes, curiosity after 9/11

Oklahoma Muslim leaders said they worked to dispel stereotypes in the aftermath of 9/11.
BY CARLA HINTON Published: September 11, 2011

As September rolled around 10 years ago, Saad Mohammad prepared to conduct a series of informational lectures about Islam for the first time.

He thought no one but his friends would show up for the presentations at the Islamic Society of Oklahoma City's mosque, 3815 N St. Clair.

His prediction proved incorrect.

“I told people there wouldn't be anyone there but our tribe (mosque members) but the tragedy happened on Sept. 11 and the first lecture was planned for Sept. 18. All four lectures were packed with people and the media,” Mohammad said.

He and other Oklahoma Muslim leaders said in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, many non-Muslims in Oklahoma displayed not anger, but curiosity.

Mohammad, the society's director of Islamic information, said one local Muslim man who distributed Islamic materials from his booth at the AMC Flea Market was inundated with people wanting pamphlets, copies of the Quran and other items.

“The attacks happened on a Tuesday and that Saturday, his booth was packed,” Mohammad said.

Efforts to educate

Both Mohammad and Arif Abdullah, imam of the Masjid Mu'min, 1322 NE 23, said stereotyping of Muslims still abounded, despite efforts to educate non-Muslims about Islam. They said many people seemed to think that all Muslims were radical Islamic terrorists like those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.

Abdullah said because of the stereotyping, he and other leaders at his mosque began extra patrols around the building for safety. He said the dress code for women was relaxed, meaning they were allowed to go without their hijabs so they would not be readily identified as Muslim.

These days, both men said the hunger for information about Islam that came after the 9/11 attacks proved to be positive for the local Muslim community.

Imad Enchassi, the Islamic Society of Oklahoma City's imam and president, said the stereotypes and misinformation that arose after the attacks made many Muslims aware of the importance of educating others about their faith. He said more Muslims became interested in interfaith activities and the Muslim faith community seemed to come together.

“After 9/11 10 years ago, we were scrambling on what we should say, what not to say,” Enchassi said.

“We have become more proactive after 9/11 and in Oklahoma, it started after the Murrah bombing.”

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