NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

CNHI Special Projects

September 8, 2011

Muslim-Americans say their faith hijacked

(Continued)

LAWRENCE, Mass. —

"The second good part was that we joined in a dialogue with other groups. We've learned about each others' religions and cultures."

At the Selimiye Mosque in Methuen, Mass., interfaith services were held after 9/11, joining Jews, Christians and Muslims in solidarity and understanding.

"We got together to pray," said Shaban Catalbas, one of the founders of the mosque who has lived in Methuen for 11 years and is originally from Turkey. "We got a few bad phone calls. But I think after Sept. 11 people got to know each other."

He said Muslim-Americans, as well as people of other faiths, have tried to focus on "the bright side, not the dark side. We respect and love each other. We are Americans. We all live in this beautiful country."

Dris Djermoun, originally from Algeria and now living in North Andover, Mass., said three members of his mosque — a mother, father and a newborn child — were on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

"It affected us tremendously," said Djermoun. "We held numerous interfaith events. People began building relationships. We endured some hard times. Some emails were very rough."

Even his two children, one of whom was in middle school at the time, were targets of comments from classmates. He was forced to intervene and speak with administrators, who took swift action against the perpetrators.

"My daughter was 13, and she couldn't understand it," he said. "The good thing about the school, they had zero tolerance."

Djermoun added: "We had a feeling that the religion was hijacked by a few people. The truth is, in Islam, the killing of one equals the killing of all. The saving of one is the saving of all."

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Bill Kirk is a reporter for The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. Contact him at bkirk@eagletribune.com

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