LI Muslims pray and wait
By Shomial Ahmad
July 22, 2006
Roslyn resident Houssam Mourabet went to mosque Friday, praying for the safe return of his teenage children who are trapped in Beirut.
"What can I do?" said Mourabet, 47. "I pray all the time: May God save the kids of all religions."
On the Muslim equivalent of the Sabbath, Mourabet prayed along with 400 other Long Island Muslims at the Islamic Center of Melville, as they do weekly. Mourabet silently asked Allah to ensure the safe return of his three children, who are vacationing at their grandparents' homes in Beirut.
The Friday prayer came on the 10th day of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In Lebanon, at least 330 citizens - mostly civilians - have died while the Israeli death toll was up to 34, with close to half of them civilians.
Mourabet has been watching the news constantly, and in the past 10 days, he has only spoken to his children twice.
"They're telling me everything's safe," Mourabet said. "But I know they're not telling me everything I need to know."
He knows that there's no electricity in his mother's home, but he doesn't know the details of where bombs hit and whether bedroom windows are shattered.
Mourabet is aware of the reality of war. His childhood home in Beirut was destroyed by an Israeli air bombardment in 1982.
Inside the Melville mosque, people spilled into several rooms to listen to Imam Ahmed Ibrahim deliver a 45-minute sermon, just before the main prayer.
There was no mention of the Middle East. But just as people were lining up to begin prayer, a man announced in Arabic that Allah should grant mercy to the Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon.
After prayer, Ibrahim sat in a room, wearing his white robe and prayer cap. Although his family lives in Egypt, he's been following the news in Lebanon constantly.
"To be honest with you, it cannot leave any Muslim's mind," said Ibrahim, cupping his hands in prayer. "It's beyond imagination."
While some Muslims at the Melville mosque said praying was all that they could do, others were trying to encourage Long Island's Muslim community to become involved. Long Beach resident Ghazi Khankan, who prayed at the mosque Friday, is helping to organize a rally outside of the Israeli mission to the United Nations in Manhattan.
"We want America to stop giving military aid to any country in the world, especially Israel," said Khankan, 72. "Military aid creates war and refugees."