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Syed Gilani

Syed Gilani prays during services at the Islamic Center, 2911 Gill St., Bloomington. (The Pantagraph/David Proeber)

In the 10 years since terrorists attacked the United States, the Twin Cities' Islamic community has proven that it is possible for good shoots to sprout from evil roots.

Syed Gilani, a member of the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal, recalls the confusion that gave way to anger and concern as he watched news coverage of one, then two, planes exploding into the World Trade Center.

When the names al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden surfaced, Gilani and other members of the center's close-knit community worried that people would link all Muslims with the violence perpetrated by a few men whose interpretation of Islam differed greatly from what is practiced in the Bloomington center.

"I very quickly dismissed the idea that it was done in the name of Islam," said Gilani.

In the days after the attacks, fears of reprisal against local Muslims turned out, for the most part, to be unfounded. The support received from members of other faiths was refreshing, said Gilani, who works for State Farm Insurance Cos.

"People from other churches stood and guarded our door," he said.

As Islam became a topic of discussion and debate, Gilani found himself accepting invitations from community and religious groups whose members wanted to understand the Muslim religion.

"What happened on 9/11 pulled us out into the community," said Gilani. In addition to sharing information, members of the center also became involved in charitable efforts in the community.

"All in all, a very good thing came from an ugly situation," said Gilani, who is spokesman for the center.

Anti-Islamic sentiments heated up again last year when objections were raised over a proposed Islamic community center near the twin towers' site.

A few negative signs were planted within sight of the Bloomington center during the New York dispute but, once again, the center's followers responded by reaching out to interfaith groups interested in learning more about Islam.

Gilani understands the ongoing effort to help people understand the separation between Islam and terrorism.

"We are the new kids on the block. I just hope people understand that Muslims are no different than one else in the U.S."


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