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Victoria Muslims report better understanding of their religion since 9/11

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS - JLPREYSS@VICAD.COM
Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

Victoria Islamic Center

BY THE NUMBERS

Number of Muslims in the world: 1.57 billion

Percentage of Muslims in United States: 0.6 percent, or about 2 million.

Number of Muslims in Texas: 114,999 (as of 2000)

Number of Muslims in Crossroads: 120

SOURCES: THE AMERICAN RELIGION DATA ARCHIVE; CIA WORLD FACTBOOK; RELIGIOUSTOLERANCE.ORG; VICTORIA ISLAMIC CENTER

The Sept. 11 attacks forced the world to sit up and take notice of Islam.

It forced a dialogue about Muslims and the differences between fundamentalist groups and mainstream Islamic followers.

After 10 years of sorting through the events, Victoria Islamic Center President Dr. Shahid Hashmi said the Sept. 11 attacks, however devastating they were, helped for the first time to establish better communication between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"The major thing that has changed since Sept. 11 is there's more awareness of Islam," Hashmi said. "There's been more awareness in local communities also about who we are, what we do and how we worship."

Hashmi said the Islamic Center congregation has maintained a warm welcome among the community, and in general he doesn't experience any religious contention.

"In Victoria, we've been fortunate to be accepted by the community," he said. "Very few are antagonistic to Muslims."

Sharing's Hashmi's sentiments, 82-year-old A.C. Brown, said he sees Islam as just another religion practiced in the United States, and Muslims as just another part of an already diverse community.

"My opinion of them hasn't changed since Sept. 11. There are some Islamics who have done some bad things, but you can't judge the whole group," Brown said. "I don't approve of what they did on Sept. 11, but I'm sure there are many Muslims that don't approve either."

Aaron Linden agreed with Brown, stating Sept. 11 was carried about by a fringe group of Muslims and does not represent the faith as a whole.

"It's not all Islamic people who did it. It was a radical group of Muslims. So I don't think of them any differently in general," Linden, 17, said.

But there are a few residents of the Crossroads who maintain mixed feelings about Islam and Muslim communities since the attacks.

"I guess I had no concern for the Islamic community before Sept. 11, and since the event occurred, I've been very concerned about them and how they are spreading terror around the world," Larry Jones, 71, said.

Whitney Vick, 26, also agreed the attacks on Sept. 11 have forced Islamic teachings to spread and thinks future attacks on U.S. soil are imminent.

"I do think they're a threat because of what happened on Sept. 11 and how they've expanded their religion here," Vick said.

But at least according to Hashmi, some good has spurred from the historic day of tragedy.

"It has at least brought on some better understanding. People are more friendly and more understanding about Muslims," Hashmi said.

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