Czech Moslem community condemns attacks on US citizens

In the Czech Republic there's a several hundred strong Muslim community settled mainly in the vicinity of the Moravian capital Brno, the only place in the Czech Republic where you will, in fact, find a mosque. There the close-knit community of Moslems has its own associations, cultural events, eateries and fast food shops. Occasionally, its members are subjected to insults from skinheads and ultra right wing extremists but by and large they lead a peaceful existence.

Now however in the wake of the terrorist attacks against the United States, and in particular the early TV images of a small number of Palestinian children celebrating the tragedy, Muslim minorities around the world are more likely to be exposed to anger and hostility from the majority population. So we visited the Muslim community in Brno to find out how they feel about the terrorist attacks and whether they fear for their own safety. Daniela Lazarova reports.

Munneb Hassani is chairman of the Islamic Foundation in Brno:

"We have issued an official proclamation condemning the US attacks and all forms of terrorism. As regards the very real possibility of retaliatory action - of course we are afraid of what might happen. We hope that the US administration will act with full responsibility for its superpower status. We hope that it will weigh all the options carefully and refrain from any rash moves that would result in the death of more innocent civilians. This is not supposed to be a war against Islam but against terrorists."

Muhamad Ali Silhavy, short, stocky and blue-eyed, is Moravian to the marrow.

However, early in life he embraced the Muslim faith as well as the Muslim lifestyle and is now president of the Muslim community in the Czech Republic, a group that acts as a bridge between the locals and Islam.

Has the past week proved difficult for the Muslim community in Brno?

"Well, I know of a number of incidents in Brno where people shouted insults at Muslim mothers taking their children to school, but such things happened before the attacks as well so I can't really say that there's been a backlash against Muslims here. Certainly there have been no physical attacks of any kind. I think most people realize there's a difference between a peaceful Muslim community and religious fanatics and terrorists. Our stand on the attacks is perfectly clear and stems from the teachings of the Koran : He who harms one person is harming all of mankind. The Islamic faith is against terrorism, against murder and against suicide. In other words the atrocities committed in the United States are in violation of everything the Koran preaches and everything we believe in" .