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Local Muslims Thank "Heroes" in Portland Tragedy

Islamic Center of Tallahassee
Posted at 5:15 PM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-29 18:51:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan continues, local Muslims are reflecting on Friday's tragedy in Portland, Oregon, where two young women were the target of an anti-Muslim rant on a train.

The man making those comments attacked three people who intervened, killing two of them.

Muslims in the Big Bend and Panhandle say the incident was "devastating," but they're "eternally grateful" for those who stepped in to help.

"There are victims who died with courage and with honor," said Amro Abdalla, the imam (prayer leader of a mosque) of the Islamic Center of Tallahassee.

On a day where Americans remember those who died for their country, local Muslims say the Portland tragedy echoes the same sentiment.

Portland police say Jeremy Christian started yelling anti-Muslim slurs at two young women on a train. Three men who tried to help the women were attacked by Christian; two of them died.

"These two individuals -- and even the third who was injured but gratefully not killed -- rise to the ranks of American heroes," said Hiba Rahim, the coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) Northwest Florida chapter, based in Panama City.

Local Muslims say the attack shows anyone of any religion or ethnicity can do harm, so the message is to remind others of the common bonds all humans have.

"I hope that I never see something like this happening again here in America," Abdalla said. "This is the ideology of the terrorist groups, by the way. It is sad that to see part of it here."

"In Florida, we've seen a 1,000 percent in Islamophobic incidents," Rahib said. "That's just really a shame, and it's so painful."

To honor those who intervened in the Portland attack, CAIR's Northwest Florida chapter held a gathering Sunday. The group has also collected several letters from the community for the families of the victims.

"Just saying things like, 'Your family members are true American heroes, and we're happy to recognize them on this Memorial Day, as we recognize all fallen victims of the past."

During the month of Ramadan (which ends June 24), the Islamic Center of Tallahassee hosts an iftar, a nightly community feast to mark the breaking of the fast. Abdalla says the iftar is an open invitation to learn more about the local Muslim community over a meal, which is held after sunset at its Old Bainbridge Road location.