Sunday, September 16, 2001

Diana Mills gives a lei and a hug to Hakim Ouansafi, president of
the Muslim Association of Hawaii. Mills and other Christians
visited the Islamic Center in Manoa to offer their support.

Isle Muslims share
grief over attacks

Remember 9-11-01

By Helen Altonn

Representatives of several churches were wondering what to do with their leis after they went to the Muslim Association of Hawaii to show their support and aloha and no Muslims were there.

Hakim Ouansafi, association president and chairman, was delayed about an hour for the 2 p.m. gathering yesterday because of constant calls and dealing with a computer virus.

He said the association had received 796 calls of support as of 3 p.m. yesterday and only one negative call, which occurred the afternoon of the attacks Tuesday. It received four negative e-mails, he said.

Jim Miller, member of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Kaimuki Christian Church, organized yesterday's event at the Islamic Center in Manoa "to send a very strong signal that we want to embrace all people of the island, especially the Muslims.

"We will not condone any racism," he said, recalling how Japanese Americans were mistreated after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nasir Gazdar, formerly of Pakistan, was visiting Sister Raofa Ahary, who lives at the center, when the church group gathered.

While they waited for Ouansafi, Gazdar joined them, followed by Sister Ahary, formerly of Afghanistan.

"Our place is just like any church, temple or synagogue," said Gazdar, part-time UH geography teacher. But it is informal, without a priest, he said.

As Americans, he said, Muslims share the grief over the victims of the terrorism and they are collecting Red Cross donations and giving blood.

He denounced the terrorists as people "who are not humans, just cowards" who took advantage of America's freedom and blessings and killed innocent people.

Gazdar said he came to America for a higher education and "because I was fearful in my country," which has been torn by war for 22 years.

"We want to make sure Arabs and Muslims feel safe in this country," Miller said.

Sister Ahary said she is afraid for Afghanistan, a poor country with 25 years of fighting. Her husband was a University of Afghanistan professor and she taught literature there. They fled about 10 years ago because the country was at war, she said.

"We came bush to bush, like hiding, at night," she said. They spent a year in Pakistan, then went to Washington, D.C., sponsored by a sister, she said.

Sister Ahary accepted some of the leis given by the church representatives. When Ouansafi arrived, he also was covered in leis.

"Much mahalo," said the Morocco-born Muslim leader. "That's what overwhelms me about Hawaii." He said the calls of support for the Muslims "just make me wish every state was called Hawaii.

"It shows not as many ignorant people live in this state. Just one," he said, referring to the negative caller. "Maybe he was misinformed."

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