Belle Glade Muslims Share Neighbor's Anger & Fear
Belle Glade Muslims share neighbors' anger, fear
By Stella M.
September 16, 2001
BELLE GLADE + Tuesday's
attack on the United States has members of Belle Glade's tight-knit Muslim
community struggling to comprehend what happened. They've wept. They've become
angry. They've felt scared.
Like other Americans, they too have
questioned "why" and urged others not to look at them as the enemy.
sad. It's really, really sad," said Mohamed Shatara, 28, as he stood outside his
family's store in Belle Glade. "One bad person makes everyone else look bad, but
what people have to understand is that you've got a bad person in every
Shatara is a part of a substantial Muslim community in Belle
Glade, one of the only distinctly Arab neighborhoods in Palm Beach County. Some
of the inhabitants have been here for more than 30 years. Many are Palestinians,
but some are from Pakistan, Iran and other countries, living and working side by
side with immigrants from other countries.
Many own stores in this town
of 15,000. Because of Belle Glade's sizable Hispanic and Haitian
many business owners have learned to speak Spanish or Creole and greet their
The 2001 census hasn't yet identified Belle
Glade's Arabic population. According to the census, 50.7 percent of the city's
residents are black, 30.3 percent are white, and 27.6 percent are Hispanic.
About 10 percent are "other."
Belen Beltran, a native of Mexico who works
at the Family Good Center on West Avenue A, said she hasn't had any problems
with her Muslim neighbors. Business owners on her street, regardless of
nationality, look out for one another, watching each other's stores while the
other runs an errand.
"I think we're all here for the same reason: to get
ahead and lead a better life," said Beltran. "We don't have any bad things to
say about them."
Since Tuesday's attack, many Muslim residents have been
glued to the television .
Joe Shatara, the owner of Joe's Fashion, said
the news reports are disturbing.
"A lot of Muslims have been labeled as
evil, but we don't support what happened," he said.
A few Muslims said
they feared retaliation. They've gotten strange looks from people and questions
like, "Why did your people do this?"
For Yousef Muslet, the recent
events are a wake-up call for everybody to come together, regardless of
religion, race or ethnicity.
"It's a test," said Muslet, the owner of
Missouri Department Store. "That's what life is. It's a test."
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