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Muslims, Arabs express condolences, confidence

Virtually every American Muslim or Arab that I asked on Friday about the shootings at Fort Hood said his or her first concern was for the victims and the survivors. Some said they were also concerned that the incident would feed negative perceptions of their community.

"I feel nervous when I see a Muslim name or an Arab name," Imam Awni Qudah, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of Annapolis said after Friday at the Makkah Learning Center in Gambrills. Qudah said he meets and speaks regularly with his Jewish and Christian counterparts

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"What worries me is our neighbors, our reputation," he said. "Whenever something happens, everybody looks at us, and we do not want that barrier."

But others expressed confidence that Americans are unlikely to blame the alleged actions of shooting suspect Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan on his Palestinian roots or his Muslim faith.

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"Maybe a few years ago, backlash would have been higher on my list, but the U.S. has really kind of matured on this point," Baltimore attorney and author Alia Malek said. "If there were ever a reason to brace ourselves for a really tremendous backlash, it was after 9/11. And, you know, it wasn't our greatest moment as Americans, but we've come through that with some more curiosity, more openness and more willingness to look at the different communities that make up the United States."

Farhat Noor, a software engineer in Baltimore, also identifies the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a turning point.

"I think people have kind of understood that, yes, there are some people within the Muslim community that have done things like this, but the people I've interacted with have been able to differentiate that, yes, this happened, but it's not linked to the religion or it's not something that is preached," Noor said. "I was just talking about it with co-workers, and I don't see them looking at me any differently or thinking about me any differently."

Qudah was heartened Friday but what he said was an outpouring of support from his interfaith friends.

"I received many calls from the churches around us," he said."I was so happy hearing, 'Imam, we are behind you.' One of them said, 'I was so anxious last night thinking about you, thinking about your community. I hope nobody will do any bad thing.' "

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