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Beheading decried by local Muslims

Like most Americans, Bash Pharoan said, he was stunned to learn about the beheading of Paul M. Johnson Jr. by Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia. But as a Muslim, he also felt a different kind of horror.

Pharoan, a physician and president of the Baltimore County Muslim Council, said he fears that the incident will exacerbate Americans' views of Muslims as a violent people. He fears that it could prompt retaliation against innocent Muslim-Americans, many of whom, he said, have been feeling pressure and keeping a low profile since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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Just as the Mafia doesn't represent Italians, Pharoan said, Islamic militants practicing terrorism do not represent Muslims. He said he wants the world to know that a small minority of Muslims "use the religion as a cover."

In attempt to curb anti-Islamic sentiment, the council issued a news release condemning the killing of Johnson.

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"The killing of Mr. Johnson is against the principles of Islam taught and practiced for close to 14 centuries," it said.

In an interview yesterday, Pharoan said, "Islam by name means peace. Islam forbids violence against innocent people."

Speaking out against the beheading is one of many steps Pharoan has taken recently to increase Americans' understanding of Muslims. He led an unsuccessful fight this year to persuade the Baltimore County school board to close schools on the two most significant Muslim religious holidays of the year, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.


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