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Ghana's Muslims fear increased tensions

Islamic minority is worried their reputation has been ruined by Nigerian who tried to bomb airplane.

Abdulmutallab’s father is a successful banker and the family owns expensive properties in Nigeria and London. Abdulmutallab attended an elite boarding school in Togo before studying engineering at University College London.

“If I got that chance,” Abdullah said, “I think I will help more youths, to open a farm. We don’t eat the way we want. We struggle for our daily bread.”

A Nigerian newspaper cited anonymous sources in reporting that Abdulmutallab visited Nima and may have stayed there during his second week in Ghana. It’s clear, however, that authorities have been scouring the neighborhood.

“Since the thing happened, they have been going around and around, searching,” Mohammed Bawah, a religion teacher at the Institute of Islamic Studies.

The institute is an offshoot of the Islamic Research and Reformation Center, founded in 1972 by Ghanaians who studied in Saudi Arabia, according to author Holger Weiss. His 2002 book, “Social Welfare in Muslim Societies in Africa,” noted that the center promoted conservative Wahhabi principles preferred by the wealthy Saudis.

Teachers at the institute said Abdulmutallab didn’t visit their compound, and don’t know of any other place he may have gone. Abdullai said investigators visited the school in early January. He described the meeting as cordial.

Government officials have revealed little. A spokesman recently told reporters that Abdulmutallab checked into a hotel in the Dzorwulu neighborhood and aroused no suspicion during his stay. The Nigerian newspaper claimed Abdulmutallab checked out after one week.

It’s not the first time Ghana has confronted the prospect of terrorists within its borders.

Three men from Mali were arrested in Ghana on Dec. 16 after a U.S.-led investigation allegedly revealed that the men agreed to transport cocaine through Ghana to raise money for Al Qaeda. One of the men boasted that he is the leader of a criminal organization that does business with Al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa.

For all their problems, the neighborhoods have rallied over the years to improve their conditions. Muslim social service groups organize cleanups, support jobs initiatives and educate young people about AIDS.

But the prospect of terrorists among their ranks has rattled the community.

“Muslims in Ghana, they don’t want to associate themselves with that,” said Abdullai, the science teacher. “We don’t kill people. Islam doesn’t preach that.”

The United States now requires extra screening of air travelers from certain countries, Nigeria among them. Abdullai said it’s a positive sign that Ghana was not on the list.

Musah Muntari, a 16-year-old student at the institute, said “real Muslims” support better causes.

“I want to be a doctor,” he said. “Doctors help people a lot and they do so many things. I will try as much as possible to help the orphans, especially. They need this.”