Muslims in US try to deflect hatred

LOS ANGELES: Since September 11, Arab and Muslim community

relations organizations in the US have been working in crisis mode to

minimize backlash against their communities, as well as spread messages

of unity and tolerance.



But most associations say they weren't 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, director of communication for

the Arab American Anti-discrimination Committee.



"We were unprepared for something of this scale."



Arab and Muslim organizations report hundreds of media calls and

requests for interviews, beginning on Tuesday and increasing over

subsequent days.



Ibish said he received more than 100 calls on September 11, 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,

communications director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "But the

overall goal has to be grassroots."



Eltantawi said that her organization will focus on interfaith events in

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

Islam.



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