Flowers and good wishes shower Lynnwood mosque

By Warren Cornwall

Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — On Tuesday, the messages were of hate and anger.

But by Thursday, the cards, flowers, phone calls and visits that poured in to the Dar Alarqam Mosque in Lynnwood were ones of support, sorrow and solidarity.

"We came down to give our apologies for the response they have gotten," said Amy Dennis of Lynnwood, who delivered a card to the mosque Thursday afternoon with her 10-year-old son Devon. "We know that they felt the pain that we are feeling."

The Dennises were part of a steady stream of people seeking to metaphorically wipe away the black paint splattered on the mosque’s sign and the menacing phone calls that came shortly after Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

Nasser, a member of the mosque’s board, had one word to describe how the community response had made him feel: "Relieved."

"This is what we really expected from American people," he said.

Still, there remains a fear of harassment or attacks from people angered by the terrorism and by mounting speculation that Islamic extremists were behind it.

Nasser

Nasser asked that his last name not be published, worried that he could be targeted. Attendance at evening prayer services has been half of normal since Tuesday. The gatherings are attended only by men, not the women and children who also usually come, Nasser said. Some families have urged mosque leaders to cancel weekend activities for children.

"Maybe some are staying home for fear of something," he said.

As news of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim incidents surfaced here and around the nation, local and national leaders have urged American’s not to direct their outrage toward Arab-Americans and Muslims.

"Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab-Americans who live in New York City who love their flag just as much as the three of us do. And we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war, that we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve," President George Bush said during a televised phone conversation with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki.

Lynnwood Mayor Tina Roberts-Martinez welcomed the support that came to the mosque.

"I think it shows that they have community support," she said.

No further incidents at the mosque have been reported to police, Roberts-Martinez said.

Elsewhere in the country, a rash of violence, threats and vandalism were reported.

Up to six shots were fired at an Islamic center in Irving, a Dallas suburb. No one was hurt. The door of a mosque in San Francisco was splattered with blood. Islamic centers in different cities were spray painted with threats. An Islamic bookstore in Alexandria, Va., a Washington suburb, had two bricks thrown through a window, with angry messages tied to them.

Muslim and Arab-American leaders, meanwhile denounced the terrorist attacks, welcomed the federal response to the targeting of their communities and promoted the charitable efforts of Muslims.

"We’re feeling very good that people are taking this so seriously," James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said following a meeting with Justice Department and FBI officials about the discrimination.

In Lynnwood, Nasser said mosque leaders were trying to a find a nurse who could take blood donations from worshippers gathered for services today.

"We are all in the same boat," he said. "We are Americans, too.

Well-wishers arriving at the mosque echoed that.

"We think we need some unity right now, and we’re their neighbors," said Cindy Burch, the activity coordinator of a nearby housing complex.

The card and chrysanthemums she delivered joined a growing pile of flowers and cards in the mosque’s hallway.

Nasser said the mosque voice mail was filled with more than 100 messages of support from people Thursday. Others have come offering money to help pay for repairs to the damaged sign.

He said an unblemished sign would be erected outside the north Lynnwood mosque within a week.

"We’re going to fix it," he said.

Herald news services contributed to this report.

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to cornwall@heraldnet.com.

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