Like other Americans all over the country, worshippers at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau took a moment to pray silently for those who lost their lives Tuesday because of acts of terrorism in New York and Washington.
Their question afterward: Why wouldn't they?
"Any normal human being with a heart definitely would condemn all of this," said Mudasser Wayne, 42. "Our religion does not call for the killing of innocent people."
Just because the attackers who flew suicide missions into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, snuffing out thousands of American lives, were Muslims doesn't mean that all Muslims are murderers, they said.
"Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City building, but that does not mean all Christians bombed it," said K. Zia, a 46-year-old local physician. "People use the Quran the wrong way just as people have used the Bible the wrong way."
After the adan -- an Islamic call to prayer -- 10 men and two women faced Mecca to pray for the American loss Friday. They also took a moment of silence in recognition of President Bush's declaration that Friday should be marked by prayer and remembrance.
As is Islamic custom, the Muslims touched forehead to ground briefly before prayer. The men and women, with shoes removed, were separated by a partition, as is customary.
The imam, a volunteer who leads the prayers, was Dr. Mohammad Shakil.
"We must establish justice, even for your own kin. Islam has given us that message," Shakil told the worshippers in a prayer that was part English and part Arabic, the language of the Quran.
"Lots of innocent lives were lost," he said. "Lots of children became orphans. It hurts us, like it hurt everyone, to see those pictures. It makes us cry."
Islam stands for peace, he said. It does not endorse terrorism.
"The God Almighty is not God for Muslims only," he said. "He is God for all. The prophet had a message of peace for the whole world. Islam never tolerates criminal behavior. We condemn these killings."
Pray criminals are caught
Shakil, a local neurologist, said his other prayer was that America should not overreact in its retaliation.
"We should not become arrogant," he said. "We should not start another tragedy by killing more innocent lives. ... But we pray that these criminals are caught."
The prayer ended with the recitation of the Quran, and the worshippers turning their heads left and right to each other, mouthing the words, "peace be with you." The gesture is symbolic of a wish for peace worldwide.
Those questioned afterward said they had not experienced any racism since the terrorists acts.
"People have been very friendly," said Omar Aziz, a 37-year-old medical technologist at Southeast Missouri Hospital. "I've had many people ask me how I feel and what the center is doing."
Ahmed Bashrahil, 24, said that people should not judge all Muslims based on the acts of the few.
"There are good guys and bad guys in every ethnic group," he said. "Unfortunately, the bad guys made the big headlines."
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