Houston's Nigerian community distances itself from terrorism suspect

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by Brad Woodard / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on December 31, 2009 at 8:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 31 at 11:46 PM

 HOUSTON -- Houston, the nation's fourth largest city is also one of its most ethnically diverse, with over 90 languages spoken and 1.1 million people living in the metropolitan area born outside the United States.  However, one nationality has been top of mind lately because of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian National accused of trying to bring down a detroit bound airliner on Christmas day.

That's why the Nigerian Foundation, Inc.,of Houston, called a news conference today.

"...to bring attention to a sick young man, who's been presented in the press as a Nigerian," says Dr. Robert Irabor, chairman of the foundation's board.

With 150,000 to 250,000 residents in Houston, Nigerian-Americans comprise two percent of the city's population, the largest Nigerian American population in the U.S.

"We are trying to avoid a backlash," says Irabor.  "We are trying to let people know we are productive, good citizens in this community and in the United States."

The foundation is also quick to point out that Abdulmutallab was educated , not in Nigeria, but in London; and later, Yemen.

It also points out that when he visited Houston in August 2008, it was to attend a two weekend program hosted by AlMaghrip Institute, a web-based Islamic education center. 

And then there's the alleged attempt to blow up a plane.

"This is not a Nigerian way of living," says Reverend Felix Awotula, a local pastor.  "We don't believe in killing.  His influence was externally generated."

It's not an Islamic way of living either, according to Nigerian Americans who also happen to be Muslim.

"The Qur'an specifically forbids anyone from killing any human being," says Kila Jimoh, of the Nigerian Foundation.

If you kill one, he says, it's like killing the whole world.

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