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Local Muslims: bin Laden doesn't represent Islam

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Oct. 15, 2001
Although they initially feared fellow Muslims might face retaliation in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, representatives of Meridian's Islamic community say they feel relatively safe in the place they call home.
Dr. Akhtar J. Siddiqui, a Meridian pediatrician, and Dr. Habib Bazyari, professor and chairman of the Division of Business and Industry at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus, gave The Meridian Star Editorial Board Friday a glimpse of life inside the city's Muslim community and its reaction to recent terrorist events.
Bazyari moved to the United States from Iran in 1960 at a time when his country was undergoing modernization. He moved to Meridian in 1973 and became a citizen in 1982, determined not to return to his country which at the time had experienced revolution.
Meridian's Muslim community is comprised of nine or 10 families, Siddiqui said, most of whom are physicians. They worship on Fridays in a small room on North Frontage Road, he said, a place they avoided until last week when they held their first gathering since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Residents show support
Siddiqui, a native of Pakistan, came to the United States in 1991. He has made his home in Meridian with his wife and two children, ages 11 and 13, for nearly seven years.
Siddiqui said he initially avoided public places like the mall after the Sept. 11 attacks. But with an outpouring of love and support from patients, friends and residents, he feels more comfortable moving about.
Bazyari said he agrees with Siddiqui's view.
United States gets tough
Bazyari said the United States should remain firm with its demands that Afghanistan surrender bin Laden.
Bazyari said the United States proverbially shot themselves in the foot when they aided the Taliban, a religious group that studied in Pakistan and then forced the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
Today, the Taliban are hard-line rulers of Afghanistan and harbor bin Laden the alleged mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
Siddiqui said apprehending bin Laden will solve a fraction of the problem.
Bazyari and Siddiqui said bin Laden and people like him hope to create division among the Muslims and Christians living in the United States.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at