GW’s Muslim Students Association and Students Against Sanction joined area Muslims at a rally in Lafayette Park Saturday to call for the use of ground troops to aid predominantly Muslim ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Children held posters calling for U.S. troops to intervene in Kosovo. Muslim women who wore white hijabs – scarves covering their heads – held a large green banner with white letters that read, “Muslims for Peace and Justice.”
A young girl circulated a petition calling for the Clinton administration to send ground troops to the disputed region.
“We’ve sent troops to so many other wars,” said GW sophomore Yasin Hazig. “This conflict hasn’t been given enough attention.”
For GW student Mirha Bilalbegovic, images of Serb atrocities and refugees in Kosovo triggered painful memories of her experiences in her native Bosnia.
“I cannot believe that the world is watching and no one is doing anything,” Bilalbegovic said. “I ask, should this have happened to Kosovo for people to realize its effects?”
“If you look around there are Malaysian, Palestinian, Indonesian, African and even Hispanic Muslims here,” said junior MSA member Maliha Malik. “One of the beauties of Islam is that worldwide it is the largest growing religion.”
Aly Abuzaakouk, director of the American Muslim Council, said in a speech that Muslims in America support the Kosovars’ struggle for “self-determination.”
“The focus of this isn’t dowah – to spread the word of Islam,” GW junior Liane Chinwalla said. “It’s just to say what’s going on is just outright wrong.”
Rally signs conveyed evocative messages. One sign displayed a picture of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Adolf Hitler – “Milosevic didn’t invent ethnic cleansing – he had a good teacher.”
A Muslim woman spoke to White House tourists on the streets and distributed pamphlets about Islam.
“They say it’ll take three to six months to send ground troops. By that time there’ll be nobody there,” said Amina Alhashami of Falls Church, Va.
In lieu of clapping, gatherers showed their support by saying “Allah-U-Akbar” – God is great.
“Muslims are dying,” Malik said. “We must do what we can. We must show Muslims we support them and that there is a need to take action.”
The rally ended with the midday prayer Salatul Zuhr.