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Published: Monday, 1/31/2005

A job for Jersey City

Despite the best efforts of Muslim leaders, anti-Muslim sentiment is sweeping Jersey City, N.J. for the third time, and it's going to take more than the involvement of Muslim and Christian leaders to quell the discord.

The first outbreak came after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, when Jersey City residents learned that some of the culprits had been living among them. The next wave of hatred was, predictably, after 9/11. Now, the latest has been spurred by events closer to home. An Egyptian Christian family of four was found brutally murdered in their home earlier this month. No arrests have been made, but some have, unfortunately, blamed the deaths on Muslims.

Regardless of the background of the killer or killers, no city can afford to ignore such a situation, and Jersey City officials need to aggressively address the tension. The sheer savagery of the murders of Coptic Christians Hossam Armaniouis, 47, his wife, 37, and their daughters, 15 and 8, and knowledge that he had argued with Muslims in an Internet chat room have fueled speculation that Muslims were involved.

Officials say robbery is a possible motive. However, that didn't stop scuffling at the funerals or prevent anti-Islam hecklers. As a result, much of the post 9/11 progress in repairing relations between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the area has been lost. That is too bad, and leaders of the various parties and faiths need to unite and remind Jersey City that this is America, where we don't make such sweeping judgments.

Even if Muslims are eventually charged in the deaths, all of Islam cannot and must not be blamed. Remember, in our nation, a person is supposed to be judged by the content of his character, not his religion.

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