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Local Arab-Americans decry all terrorism



Published: Sat, September 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Many say they have sworn to defend the United States from all terrorists.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LIBERTY -- Arab-Americans from the Mahoning and Shenango valleys have pledged their support to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Husam Rafeedie, president of the Arab Community Center of Youngstown, said $10,000 has been collected for the relief effort.

The money came from individual Arab-Americans, the Arab-American Grocery Association and the Arab Community Center.

The donation was presented to the Mahoning and Trumbull chapters of the American Red Cross.

Group effort: "Several of us contributed as individuals, and I just thought we could do a lot more as a group," said Maher Ramahi, a store owner in Farrell, Pa.

"Our hearts and souls are with the families," added Rafeedie, who, along with other local Arabs, talked with The Vindicator before a press conference Friday at the center, on Belgrade Avenue in Liberty.

"We're trying to tell the community that we condemn every terrorist attack," the center president said.

Behind Bush: Rafeedie pledged his support to President Bush in "giving the terrorists what they deserve."

He asked the community in general not to judge people by their color, dress or looks.

"We do know the feeling of terror," he said, pointing out that local Arabs fled to this country from their homelands in pursuit of a better life.

"We are part of America, a part of this culture," said Ammar Shafai, who owns four convenience stores in Warren.

Willing to fight: Noting that local Arabs have taken a personal oath to defend America, he added, "I'm willing to fight for this country."

"You work hard and get rewarded for it," said Shafai, a Palestinian who came to the United States in 1989, graduated from Youngstown State University and opened his first store in 1991.

He said the attacks have not only united this country as a whole, but also the Arab-American community in particular.

At the press conference, Russell Preston, executive director of the Mahoning Red Cross, called attention to the patriotism displayed by the Arab-American community.

Appreciation: Warren Mayor Hank Angelo said the community is fortunate to have members of the Arab community contributing to the area economically, religiously and patriotically.

"We feel very good that we are all brothers under the American flag," he said.

Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey commented, "We stand united; we stand as one."

XThis story is reprinted from Friday's late editions.




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