Dr. Badie Alakech still vividly remembers how he first saw footage of a plane hitting the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I caught my breath," said Alakech, who was doing his residency at the time. "My heart almost stopped."
Alakech, who spoke Tuesday during a Sept. 11 commemoration hosted by the Minot State University Arabic Club, recalled his concern that those responsible might be Muslims, because he feared how the media might depict the attacks. His heart also was breaking for the victims, one of whom turned out to be the fiancee of one of his close friends.
Alakech, now a pathologist at Trinity Medical Center, said those responsible for the attacks 11 years ago were delusional, people with personal, religious or social rationalizations for believing it was right to kill civilians. Such people are on the fringes but were easy to turn into tools by criminals in power, said Alakech.
Alakech worries now about the fate of his family and friends in Syria, which is in the grip of a civil war. He blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for sending government forces to massacre civilians.
Alakech said his middle school math teacher was kidnapped, tortured and murdered. Alakech's brother is still missing after being abducted 13 months ago. Footage showing murdered Syrian children and other casualties of the conflict can be seen on YouTube.
Alakech has lived in the United States for more than 20 years and is now an American. He has been in Minot for three years and is head of the Minot Mosque.
As an American, Alakech said he would never want to see action that would cost more American lives, but he would like to see some sort of intervention into the Syrian conflict. He said ideally he would like to see a no-fly zone over Syria, help for local people, and CIA penetration into the country to ensure power is not going to the wrong hands.
Alakech said the recent Arab Spring in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, shows that ordinary people are searching for a way to live a life of tolerance, in which they have the right to be different, can live in stability and without provocative action.
Alakech said there are 7 million Muslims in the United States alone and they have lived peacefully. Several terrorist attacks since 9/11 were prevented because Muslim Americans reported threats to the authorities, said Alakech. He said ordinary Muslims often live under criminal leaders such as al-Assad or recently deceased Libyan leader Moammar al-Gadaffi and have little power to act. In some cases, the actions of terrorists may be based on personal or cultural reasons rather than religious ones.
People who blame all Muslims for the actions of fanatical terrorists such as the Taliban in Afghanistan may not realize that Islam has no one leader and that there are many different sects of the religion, said Alakech.
For the mainstream Muslim American view of actions in the Middle East, Alakech recommended people seek out information from the Council of American Islamic Relations.
Islam Farag, a Fulbright scholar from Egypt and a teaching assistant in an Arabic language class at the college, also spoke about Islam and its teachings regarding human rights. Farag said murder without a reason is forbidden in Islam and it is also forbidden to kill women and children. He said women in the Islamic faith had the right to own their own businesses and pursue education several centuries before it was possible for women in Europe.
The Arabic Club hosted the 9/11 commemoration in the MSU Student Multicultural Center. Guests also had a chance to sample Egyptian food prepared by the class.