INTERNATIONAL: Muslim groups face comms crises

LOS ANGELES: Arab and Muslim community relations organisations in

the US have been working in crisis mode since 11 September to minimise

backlash against their communities, as well as to spread messages of

unity and tolerance.



But most associations say they were not prepared for an event of this

magnitude, and may lack the resources to deal with it.



'The structures we have in place have been stretched to the limit and

beyond in this case,' said Hussein Ibish, Arab American

Anti-discrimination Committee director of communications.



'We were unprepared for something of this scale,' he added.



Arab and Muslim organisations reported hundreds of media calls and

requests for interviews since the terrorist strikes.



Ibish said he received more than 100 calls on 11 September and has

appeared in several major media outlets over the past week, such as CNN

and the LA Times.



Most Arab and Muslim groups are concentrating on similar messages for

local and national press - that their communities are experiencing the

same emotions as other citizens, that they condemn any terrorist

actions, and that they are seeing a backlash of anti-Arab sentiment that

has led to numerous threats and hate crimes across the country

(including at least two deaths that may be related to anti-Arab

sentiment).



'We are doing as many media shows as we can,' said Sarah Eltantawi, the

Muslim Public Affairs Council communications director.



'But the overall goal has to be grassroots,' she added.



Eltantawi said that her organisation will focus on inter-faith events in

the coming days, and educating the public on the 'peaceful' nature of

Islam.



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