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BY M.M. Afrah
Phone # (416) 926-8952 ( Daily after 5 p.m.)

Mr. Afrah is a veteran Somali journalist and the author of three published books. He is living in Toronto with his surviving son and grandchildren. His new Manuscript has been accepted into the Blue Pencil Room Program with the 1999 Writer-in-Residence, Ms Cynthia Holz, at the Toronto Public Library. He is currently working on that manuscript for his fourth book about living in the Diaspora. He can be reached at email: -
-The Editor,

As the United States sifts through the smoldering wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Muslims, and people from the Middle East and Asia, including Sikhs (!) are finding themselves in the crosshairs of negative public opinion. Sikhs who are not Muslims are targeted because of their headdress and long beards. Hindu Temples are put to torch and Muslims in Chicago, New York, Toronto and elsewhere receive death threats.

"We haven't done anything wrong, nor have millions of other Muslims. Why are we being blamed for the acts of a few terrorists?" Eyeopener, a University of Toronto newspaper quoted Fatima Khan, a first-year retail management student at the University of Toronto.

Confusion about Islam and its followers is causing a marked increase in hate crimes around the world and in North America, according to "Eyeopener" in its October edition.

The misconceptions that threaten to mangle an understanding of the Muslim, Arab and Asian world are mostly generalizations made in the popular culture. Some quick corrections that are only the tip of the iceberg include:

*All brown-skinned people are not of Middle Eastern origin;

*All Arabs are not Muslims; *Islam is the faith. Muslim is the name of the people who follow it;

*Afghanistan is not an Arab country; *Iranians are Persians, not Arabs;

*A Pakistani could be Christian, Sikh, Zoarastian or Hindu, although they are minorities;

*An Arab could be Coptic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Durzi;

*Qura'anic (Koran for the Western press) Scriptures do not allow for the massacre of innocent people;

*Being Palestinian does not mean you are Muslim (example: Hannan Ashrawi, George Habasah and many other outspoken Palestinians are Christians):

*If you are Muslim you could be Shi'ite Muslim or Sunni Muslim. There are as many denominations of Islam as there are of Christianity;

*Not many Muslim women wear the religious head- scarf. Qur'aan

Chapter 5: v35 says: "Whoever killed a human being, except as punishment for the murder or other villainy in the land, shall be regarded as having killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as having saved all mankind."


The Somalis are Sunni Muslims and the new transitional government condemned international terrorism. The Prime Minister, Ali Khalif Galayr said: "The Somali Government has neither a direct link nor an indirect relationship with Osama bin Laden," and called the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. as "heinous terror."

Many people in the war-torn country were stunned when US intelligence has suggested that bin Laden may be heading for Somalia. But the transitional government has said that Osama bin Laden would not be welcome there and has pledged to help the United States fight terrorism.

Somalia has been devastated by civil war since 1991 in which clan-based militia has plunged the once beautiful country into anarchy. The transitional government still does not control all of Somalia's territory.

Reuters new agency asked a government spokesman if Bin Laden would be welcome in Somalia.

"No. Absolutely no," replied Abdirahman Dinaari. "The Somalis do not want any act of terrorism… we have been suffering for the last 10 years and we don't want any disturbances."

A diplomat in Nairobi, capital of neigbouring Kenya, agreed that Bin Laden would be unlikely to seek refuge in Somalia.

"It is a place Bin Laden would stick out like a sore thumb," said the diplomat.

"He would need a lot of security just to get around. It doesn't seem like a sensible place - Somalis talk far too much," he said.

"Besides there are no mountains and caves in Somalia," another diplomat who served his country in Somalia put in.

Somalis shake their heads whenever they read that people with beards and wearing turbans are being arrested for possible connection with the terrorist attacks. The American police have even arrested an Italian for having a beard and for wearing a white baseball cap backwards, which to the police resembled a scull cap worn by many Muslims. "I was violated," he says. "An innocent Italian Catholic was arrested for having a beard and for wearing a white baseball cap backwards," he added. He was later cleared of having any connections to Arabs and Muslims!

Balbir Singh, 49, was shot to death while doing landscape work outside his Chevron gas station in Mesa, Arizona. Francisco Roque, 42, was held on $1 million bond in connection with the shooting that police said could have been racially motivated!

During the same week fire engulfed Samaj Temple, which serves 800 Hindus in Hamilton. Eyeopener quoted the Ontario Fire Marshal as saying that the blaze should be treated as arson, probably making it a case of mistaken identity. A nearby mosque had also been vandalized.

"We used to sing O Canada, holding hands with fellow Canadians. But now I receive phone threats from the same friends and neighbours. They are judging me of what they think Islam is all about," said Mohamed Muhiddin Ali, a Somali-Canadian who once saved an elderly woman on an out-of-control electric wheelchair in Hamilton, Ontario.

"I don't want to send a resume with the name Mohamed anymore, because I know they would not even bother to read it," he added.

Another Somali-Canadian wondered if America's global war against terrorism will include Northern Ireland and the Basque terrorists in Spain. Will they continue supporting the IRA, the ETA and the anti-Saddam Hussein Kurds as they kill and maim innocent people?

I had no answer for that question.


M.M. Afrah is a published author of three books on the civil war in his native country of Somalia. He also covered the Horn of Africa country for Reuters news agency for more than two decades. He is a member of the Journalists-in-Exile under the umbrella of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). Writing in the British edition of ESQUIRE magazine of April 1995, Aidan Hartley who worked with Afrah in Africa described his frontline reporting as BRAVERY UNDER FIRE.

Mr. Afrah is currently writing another book about life in the Diaspora and can be reached at -

-The Editor.



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