Building Bridges

Lizz King

Here in Central New York, the push for war abroad has been accompanied by FBI activity in our own community. Since February 26, federal authorities have detained and harassed members of the Muslim community. At least three men and a charity they were affiliated with, Help the Needy, Inc., have been indicted in federal court. They are charged with laundering money in order to provide humanitarian support to the Iraqi people, in violation of the economic sanctions against Iraq. No evidence has been offered demonstrating that any of the money in question went to terrorism, and most has been accounted for as authentic charity spending. Nevertheless, the government and media are tying the arrests closely to the so-called “War on Terrorism.” Additionally, at least one witness is being confined to his home without charges, and over 150 local Muslim families have been harassed and in many cases had their homes searched by federal and state agents, inspiring fear among the local Muslim community.

Many local people from diverse religious groups, peace organizations, and within the Muslim community offered support to these families and began looking for ways to build bonds with their neighbors. Because of this desire to share information, culture, skills, and create a support network, a group has formed over the last month. Meeting at the Islamic Society on Sunday afternoons, the group has been working toward creating projects and forums for itself and within the larger community. It hopes to promote a greater understanding of diversity, and provide an opportunity to learn about, discuss, and respond to current events which effect our lives locally, nationally, and worldwide.

If you are interested in learning more about these events, call Lizz King at 422-4924 or Magda Bayoumi at 446-7466 or email