Members of the Muslim Student Association and the Islamic Community of Madison Area spoke about the impact of the terrorist bombings on Muslims in the Madison community at a press conference Tuesday night.
Ahmed Ali of the Madison Muslim Student Association said there has been no violence and generally little harassment of Muslims in Madison.
“There have been no physical acts,” Ali said. “When people go out, there have been some taunting remarks, and verbal abuse on occasion. Overall, we have been getting far greater support than hate calls.”
Ali estimated there are between 2,500 and 3,000 Muslims in Madison, most of who are students at UW-Madison. He said there have been three minor incidents of verbal abuse at UW, but he feels some classroom practices may be creating more tension.
“Students by and large are doing very well,” Ali said. “The only thing I have observed is that sometimes students are being asked in class how they are doing, which rubs out the wounds.”
Ali also said that due to traditional styles of dress, Muslim women are more likely to be abused.
“Women stand out, and a couple have been verbally harassed,” Ali said. “We have advised them to stay inside as much as possible.”
Salih Erschen of the Islamic Community of Madison Area said he feels it is important for members of the Muslim community in Madison to explain the beliefs behind Islam, in order to eliminate the notion that Islam endorses terrorist acts.
“We come here today to educate and open the lines of communication,” Erschen said. “We have come to defend Islam as far removed from terrorism. Islam means peaceful self-submission to Allah and teaches self-restraint. [Terrorist] actions are not actions of Muslims.”
Erschen also said that Osama bin Laden’s actions do not reflect Islamic beliefs.
“This figure does not represent Islam,” Erschen said. “He is a twisted version of CIA acts. He was a boy angry at the world, and they taught him to call God in that anger. He is a strange man that represents his own ideology.”
Erschen also objected to the incorrect use of many Islamic terms in the media. He said an example of this is the term “Jihad,” defined as a holy war to exaggerate the violent tendencies of Muslims.
“Jihad simply means to strive,” Erschen said. “It only becomes military when homes and places of worship are threatened.”
He also said the term “Muslim fundamentalist terrorist” incorrectly ties terrorism to fundamental religious beliefs.
“A fundamentalist is someone who simply practices the fundamental principles of religion,” Erschen said. “These people are not fundamentalist.”
Erschen said he has faith that both the Madison community and the nation as a whole will overcome the effects of terrorism on the interactions between people.
“I have faith in the system, in our leadership and our power to exercise it in a judicious and fair way,” he said.