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Published: Thursday, 2/23/2006

A local dose of reality

THE arrest of three local men in connection with possible terrorist activities is a dose of harsh reality that brings a mixture of shock, fear, and relief to most Toledoans.

For too long many Americans in the heartland have believed that the threat of terrorism grows the closer one lives to either seaboard, given the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

But as the arrests of the three Toledo Muslims attest, no part of the nation is immune to the risk.

At this point, of course, none of the three has been convicted of anything, and the charges against them indicate that their alleged plans involved formulating attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq and did not necessarily, as far as is known, pose a threat locally.

Even so, local alarm is understandable. The arrests of Mohammed Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim I. Masloum came just two days after the U.S. Treasury Department closed down a West Toledo charity called KindHearts and froze its assets, alleging it has been funneling money to terrorist organizations in the Middle East, something KindHearts has denied.

The great danger here is that the burst of bad news will provoke anger toward local Muslims and Arabs, the vast majority of whom disavow terrorism in any form. They hold jobs, they pay taxes, they embrace a faith of peace. It would be unfortunate and a mistake to jump to conclusions about the local Islamic community and paint all followers of the faith with the same broad brush.

As a matter of fact, the federal investigation was helped considerably by local Muslims who passed along what they considered radical and threatening statements by the men.

An investigator in the Cleveland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was emphatic about it: "They (local Muslims) are the ones who deserve the most credit," Ted Wasky said. "The ability to prevent another terrorist attack cannot be won without the support this community gives."

The specific charges against the three men are serious indeed. They are charged with one count each of conspiracy to kill or maim people overseas, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to obtain explosives. In addition, Mr. Amawi faces two counts of making threats against President Bush.

It would be wrong to make any assumptions of guilt. That's for the courts to determine. But the specifics of the allegations are chilling, and a reminder that, regardless of the legal outcome, the "holy war" of the radical few, no matter where they are, will not soon go away.



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