The decision to go to war in Iraq has stirred strong and mixed feelings in the Muslim community. Azizah Moore, 18, a first-year student at Montgomery College's Takoma Park campus who is majoring in pre-medicine, opposes the war and worries about unfair attitudes toward Muslim Americans. Moore lives in Takoma Park.

I personally think that this war is throwing coals into a fire, a fire that already had the U.S. flag burning on it.

America is already seen as a rich country, but now also as a rich country that is heavy-handedly justifying a greedy grab for another country's oil supply.

The Arab and Muslim community feels that Iraq is a part of our community even if we don't agree with Saddam Hussein's regime. We feel empathy for the casualties that the heavy bombing campaign invoked on Iraqi civilians, and it is hard not to believe that this is one of the first steps in a war against Islam.

I am personally offended that President Bush would try to justify calling a man a "serious threat to the world" who has outdated tanks and barefoot "special forces" soldiers.

I don't believe that this war on Iraq is justified; I think it is morally and diplomatically questionable, but I think that many of the U.S. foreign policies are diplomatically and morally questionable. The public opinion all over the world is against this war even if public opinion in the United States still polls in support. But progressively, more questionable government policies do not only extend overseas.

I grew up in this country learning to be proud of the fact that we all enjoy freedom of speech. But to be honest, the Arab and Muslim community is increasingly afraid to speak out against policies that we may believe are unjust without being viewed as "potential terrorists" by federal agencies and fellow Americans alike.

More and more, we must legitimize ourselves at our workplace or at school by disowning our beliefs. If we do not, then we are looked at as a possible threat because others view our religious beliefs as giving us a propensity toward terrorism.

If we subscribe to a more "Orthodox" form of Islam, as I do, we are labeled fundamentalists. An Orthodox Christian or Orthodox Jew could speak about his or her moral ideals of religious practice without invoking such a label. This is part of the widespread misinformation about our religion.

If we subscribe to a more "Orthodox" form of Islam, this does not dispose us to be especially violent or resentful. It means the same thing for our moral convictions that it means for the other two major religions; these moral convictions will be more idealistic and actively part of our lives. But a negative portrayal of our religious values is creating an intolerant environment for our families.

Misinformation breeds intolerance. For others to believe that we are violent people will cause them to feel more justified in attacking us.

This is a lesson that history has taught time and time again. America is supposed to be a mixing pot of the cultures, ideas and experiences of those individuals who settled here and continue to settle here, not a factory of assimilating values and appearances.

We are just as American as any other Americans and to take that from us because we may believe differently is the first step away from the foundation of freedom and liberty that this country claims to stand upon.

Azizah Moore attends Montgomery College.