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In today's Wall Street Journal, staff reporters Robert Tomsho, Barabara Carton and Joe Periera called attention to a situation that threatens to deepen the tragedy of yesterday's terrorist attack in their article "Muslims in the U.S. Are Scared of Backlash".

Islamic schools, businesses and individual Islamic Americans across this country are receiving obnoxious, threatening phone calls, bomb threats and physical and verbal personal attacks from "patriotic" Americans. Fearful that his 15-year-old daughter might be attacked for wearing a head scarf, Talal Eid, a religious Muslim leader in New England, pulled her out of school and pleaded with us not to act irrationally, stating "We are not guilty of anything...We happen to be citizens of America."

From the article, Islamic groups in this country condemned the attacks. "There is no reason whatsoever that can justify taking the lives of innocent people," said Souhil Ghannouchi, president of the Muslim American Society in Alexandria, Va. Omar Ricci, spokesman for the Los Angeles branch of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, compared the attacks to Pearl Harbor. "We unequivocally condemn this treacherous act," Mr. Ricci said. He added that "in the back of every American Muslim's mind right now is the camps that Japanese-Americans were thrown into after the [Pearl Harbor] bombing."

In 1998, one of the youth orchestras I managed received an official invitation to represent the United States at several functions connected with Charles University in Prague. Although the group had the rare privilege of performing at the most famous and exclusive Central European concert halls in Prague and Budapest, the experience that made the greatest impact on me and on most of those 100 young instrumentalists was the tour I of the world's most infamous Nazi concentration camp.

I wanted the group to visit Auschwitz because it is such an integral part of world history, particularly key to understanding the history of that region and its people. But none of us realized how we would be affected when we saw whole rooms filled with human hair, shoes, luggage, prosthetic devices, and other personal items seized from the thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children who were herded onto those railway cars, most with no warning and no idea of their destination. We saw irrefutable evidence that thousands of people of various races and nationalities were imprisoned and murdered because of guilt by association. Many just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Before our trip, Auschwitz was something we read about in history books, with no personal relevance for most of us. Inside the facilities at Auschwitz, we heard from eye witnesses what happened to the prisoners there both during and after the war. Seeing the killing wall, choking on odor still emitted from furnaces in the crematoriums used for mass extermination of European Jews and other prisoners, and seeing actual photographs of emaciated survivors and mass graves beside stacks of lifeless bodies had a deeply emotional, sobering impact on most of those 100 teenagers.

The day we arrived back in Phoenix, there was an article in the paper reporting that an increasing number of Americans are being convinced that reports of what happened at Auschwitz and other similar facilities are gross exaggerations by propagandists. It's too difficult for us to fathom that scores of human beings, much less governments, could have committed or sanctioned such atrocities, particularly in the name of patriotism.

Yesterday the whole world watched, incredulous as the horror of the terrorist attack imprinted itself indelibly on the consciousness of millions of Americans. Scenes of death, destruction and devastation have been broadcast repeatedly on practically every radio station and TV channel. This tragedy has affected millions of lives across America, and beyond.

There won't be the proverbial return to normal, because "normal" itself no longer applies. No horror of this magnitude has happened in many of our lifetimes, never in this country.

Even as the events were unfolding before us, some politicians and public figures were seizing the opportunity to point fingers and assign blame, making a political issue out of our national disaster. I hope and pray that the American people will not allow those who would use this to their advantage to turn our shock, anger and fear into hatred misdirected into retaliation against innocent people. The guilt of one or more is not an indictment against everyone who lives in or is from that state or country.

We have seen countless examples of people rising to the occasion and showing their humanity to man, as complete strangers joined forces to help rescue and comfort survivors, many risking, sacrificing their lives in the effort. This attack was one of the worst examples of man's inhumanity to man. No good can come of our stooping to that level. We are all vulnerable in the aftermath of such terror. We must guard against being manipulated into believing retaliatory acts of unfounded hatred are justified in the name of patriotism.


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