Coptic Christian mistaken for Muslim
- I found this article very interesting, and wanted to share it with
you all. More about this incident can be found at:www.copts.com
"Tight Security at Suspected LA Hate Crime Funeral"
By Sarah Tippit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tight security surrounded a funeral on
Wednesday for an Egyptian-born grocer who, friends said, fled
religious persecution 22 years ago only to be shot dead in Los
Angeles, the victim of a suspected hate crime in the aftermath of
terror attacks in New York and Washington.
Adel Karas, 48, a father of three who had run a popular store in the
Los Angeles suburb of San Gabriel for 20 years, was shot dead there
on Saturday. His relatives believe Karas, a devout Coptic Orthodox
Christian known as ``everybody's best friend,'' was mistaken for a
Muslim and killed.
No arrests have been made but the FBI is looking into the possibility
that the incident was a hate crime. The United States has said that
Saudi-born Osama bin Laden is the chief suspect in the attacks on the
Pentagon and the World Trade center, which have provoked anti-Arab
incidents across the United States.
More than 500 people attended the funeral service for Karas, many of
them unable to get into the packed Holy Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox
Church but listening instead from the steps.
Karas' elderly parents, surrounded by relatives, wailed and cried
during the service, as did his wife, Randa. His father, who is blind,
shouted, ``My son! My son!'' in Arabic as he entered the church,
helped along by relatives.
Los Angeles police officers, FBI agents and county sheriffs -- some
of them in plain clothes -- along with private uniformed security
guards kept a watchful eye on the crowd.
KILLERS ASSUMED VICTIM WAS MUSLIM
Bishop Serapion, leader of the Los Angeles Coptic Orthodox Diocese
which comprises 22 churches and about 10,000 families of Arabic
origin, told Reuters that the killers probably assumed Karas was a
Muslim because he sold Arab food and merchandise in his grocery and
there was a mosque nearby.
He said that members of the Coptic Christian Church which was
established in the First Century, are accustomed to persecution in
their homeland. Now, he added, they may face similar attitudes in the
United States. ``We appeal to all Americans: Not all Arabs are
fanatics,'' he said. ``We also suffer with the Americans ... We
denounce these evil fanatical attacks. ... We love America ....''
At the funeral Karas was remembered by his nephew Bassem Wasef as
``everybody's best friend.'' Wasef told Reuters that his uncle
``loved America. He was very patriotic.'' He also recalled the
childlike, awe-filled expression on his uncle's face as he stepped
off the plane at Los Angeles International Airport in 1979 and got
his first glimpse of America.
``He was beaming,'' Wasef said. ``He was looking forward to the
future. He had arrived in the land of opportunity.''
In 1981 Karas opened the International Market in suburban Los Angeles
where, friends said, neighborhood children got free sodas and video
games, locals got a joke or friendly smile, and all nationalities
Friends said he complained about the plight of Coptic Christians in
Egypt, who make up about 10 percent of the population. Adel
Tawadrous, an Arab Presbyterian missionary who was a friend of Karas,
said, ``He ran away from terrorism 22 years ago. Can you imagine?
Where now can we live? Where can we escape to? We really face double
suffering in these circumstances.''
The FBI said it has opened some 50 possible hate crimes
investigations across the United States since the attacks last
Tuesday left almost 6,000 people dead or missing.