Arabic prof at OU: Suicide bombing "very Middle Eastern" "different from someone taking out a machine gun and killing everyone"
Detained prof who visited bomber's roommate on night of explosion says ""everyone is worried about what is going to happen"
MIM: Is Professor Barakat's Arabic class a prerequisite for suicide bombing 101?
Aftermath affects Muslim community
An OU instructor was questioned by law enforcement agencies.
by Sara Ganus
October 05, 2005
As the first night of Ramadan wound down Wednesday, two children tossed a football through the rain in the parking lot of the Masjid Al-Nur Islamic mosque, 1304 George Ave.
Standing to the side was Hossam Barakat, an OU Arabic instructor who lives nearby at Parkview Apartments, 606 Stinson Ave.
Although he was also celebrating the Muslim holiday, Barakat was also thinking about the events of this past weekend, when Joel "Joe" Henry Hinrichs, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering junior, died in an explosion around 7:30 p.m. Saturday while sitting on a park bench on the South Oval about 100 yards away from Oklahoma Memorial Stadium during the second quarter of the OU-Kansas State football game.
"I'm concerned about the [Muslim] community," Barakat said. "Hopefully by next week it's going to be cleared that he's not involved in this community."
With Internet reports and newscasts purporting a supposed connection between Hinrichs and the mosque, Barakat and other Muslims are worried about public perception.
"I've never seen (Hinrichs) before, just on the news," Barakat said.
He did, however, know OU finance major Fazal M. Cheema, Hinrichs' roommate.
On the night of the explosion, Barakat was visiting friends, including Cheema, at his apartment complex. Around midnight — about four and a half hours after the explosion on the South Oval — Cheema exited the apartment and Barakat said he heard Cheema being taken into custody by Norman Police Department officers, who urged Barakat and the six or seven others to stay inside.
Around 4 a.m. Barakat and the others were taken one-by-one and questioned by the FBI. They were questioned again the next day and cleared of suspicion, Barakat said.
Now, after the public has seen Hinrichs' picture and heard that Muslims were questioned by law enforcement agencies, Barakat is more concerned that some people are connecting dots that aren't there.
"Of course [I'm afraid] of the social reaction," Barakat said, "because the government has law — you can get a lawyer.
"I believe everyone is so worried now about what is going to happen."
Adeel Khan, former Muslim Student Association president and psychology and mathematics junior, said he comes to the mosque "pretty often" and also said he had never heard of Hinrichs or seen him at the mosque.
Khan also said he is worried about people connecting bits of information to establish a false relationship between Hinrichs and Muslims because stereotyping is already so prevalent.
"You take the actions of a minority of a group and apply them to the group overall," he said. "Some Malaysian sees on TV reports of Catholic priests (molesting children) a few years ago — what's he going to think about priests?"
Still, Khan said that, generally, most OU students have reacted reasonably.
"I'd have to say there's been no negativity directed at me or my friends," he said.
Ashraf Hussein, president of Muslim Student Association and petroleum and electrical engineering junior, said he is disturbed by the media's focus.
"(Hinrichs) had a Muslim roommate; he had a Muslim roommate — that's all they're mentioning," Hussein said.
Barakat agreed, saying people are afraid of the media because it appears they take information and change it for their purposes. He said the event's specific social dynamics worsen the situation.
"It's considered very Middle Eastern, the way (Hinrichs) killed himself or tried to kill others," he said. "It's different from someone taking a machine gun and killing everyone."