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Area Muslims react to threats against Quran

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Sameer Abufardeh recalls hearing an old proverb in his native Palestine.

"If one man throws a stone into a well," the saying goes, "it takes 1,000 men to get it out."

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That axiom reminds the Fargo resident of the furor created by the Florida minister who has threatened to burn the Muslim holy book, the Quran, today. The Rev. Terry Jones' well-publicized plans for a "Burn the Koran" day on the anniversary of 9/11 have created outrage and protests across the globe.

But Fargo's Muslim community has opted to keep much cooler heads. Worshipers gathered as usual at their south Fargo mosque Friday to hear their prayer leader speak about Ramadan, the Islamic holy month characterized by self-discipline, fasting and compassion toward others.

After their prayer service, mosque members such as Abufardeh expressed frustration that the media was publicizing the radical actions of a few extremists whose views didn't represent the majority of Americans.

"It was actually sad to hear about the level of extremism this country is experiencing these days," said Abufardeh, a computer science lecturer at North Dakota State University. "I think we've had enough damage about the USA to the rest of the world for the last 10 years. We don't need more. This just increases distrust between people."

Dr. Ahmer Qarni, a nephrologist at Innovis Health in Fargo, thinks the Pentecostal minister's actions have actually brought Americans closer together.

"When Americans condemned this issue and everybody saw it as an isolated, ignorant act, it was heartening," Qarni said. The Jones congregation "is a very fringe element who does not represent Americans, does not represent the Bible, does not represent the prophet Jesus and does not represent the whole society."

At the same time, Qarni fears that Jones' threatened actions could further tarnish the United States' reputation globally.

He says people in places like Afghanistan might not comprehend "that this is a guy who has 50 followers versus 300 million people," especially when reading biased reports from those countries' news agencies.

Qarni also expressed dismay that Jones' threats had become tied to the proposed building of an Islamic community center near New York City's Ground Zero. "These are two different issues," he said. "There's no connection."

Even so, Qarni believes the organizers of the Ground Zero mosque should consider moving it, "not because it's right or wrong but because we should respect the sentiment of 70 percent of the people. We're part of this community."

Egyptian Suona Osman, who moved to this area with her Sudanese husband nine years ago, said she has always felt safe and welcome in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

However, she felt shock and fear when she learned of Jones' plans.

"I say with this man, let him do what he needs to do," she said. "Only God can protect this book. Even if this man burns the Quran, he will never burn the belief out of our hearts."

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