'Terrorism Is No Part of Islam' U.S. marathoner Khalid Khannouchi makes a plea for tolerance and understanding

September 23, 2001

Khalid Khannouchi, the world-record holder in the marathon, was
sitting with his family in his hometown of Meknes, Morocco, on
the afternoon of Sept. 11 when the phone rang. On the line was
his brother Mustafa, 28, who works in a deli in New York City.
"Something is very bad," said Mustafa, who had neither the heart
nor the words to elaborate. "There's news from New York. You must
watch for yourself." The family members in Meknes switched
channels and were horrified at what they saw. "There were 20 in
my family--aunts, uncles, cousins, my father, Mohammed--and there
were many tears for the innocent people," says Khalid, 30
(below). "We were hurting too. We were sick."

For the next 24 hours America's most accomplished Muslim athlete
couldn't get a clear phone line to reach the country that had
granted him citizenship 16 months earlier. Finally, on the 12th,
he received calls from his wife, Sandra, who was at their home in
Ossining, N.Y., and had planned to join him for a vacation in
Morocco days later, and Hafid, 26, another brother, who lives in
Connecticut. Both were safe but shaken, worried about what this
attack might mean for Khalid and other Muslims in the U.S. and
worldwide.

"I hope people can understand that if the people [who did this]
call themselves Muslim, they are not," an emotional Khannouchi
said on Sunday from Meknes. "Terrorism is no part of our
religion. Who has done more harm to the name of Islam than these
people?"

Khannouchi was a runner of modest achievement in July 1993 when
he arrived in Buffalo for the World University Games and decided
to stay in the U.S. He moved to Brooklyn four months later and
found work at the Metropolitan Athletics Congress in Manhattan.
At night he ran through Brooklyn streets and mastered the New
York skill of traffic dodging. He used to enjoy having lunch with
Mustafa at Fine and Shapiro, a deli in the World Trade Center at
which his brother worked behind the counter until about two years
ago. In '98 Khalid and Sandra moved to Ossining, 30 miles from
Manhattan. In '99 he won the Chicago Marathon in a world-record
2:05:42.

Khannouchi fears a backlash against Muslims. "I'm afraid you will
see a different look from the person who gave you respect
before," he says. "I hope not, but I worry. Remember, we are not
to blame. We are also your family."

--Brian Cazeneuve

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES (KHANNOUCHI)
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)