Muslim leaders from around the Central Ohio area today said the Muslim community is praying for peace in the Middle East.

The joint statement by mosques and Muslim organizations said: "We pray for the safety of innocent Iraqis. We are especially concerned about women, children and the elderly who suffer the most in any war."

"No one in the American Muslim community supports the brutal dictatorship imposing itself on the people of Iraq. But distaste for the Iraqi regime is not sufficient justification for this war."

We join the Pope, most religious leaders, a great number of Americans, and the overwhelming majority of the world population and countries in supporting a peaceful and diplomatic solution to this crisis and in opposing this unjust aggression and indefensible initiative.

"The war may fuel a backlash against innocent American Muslims, Arab-Americans and those perceived to be 'Middle Eastern'. The Muslim community urges law enforcement officials to act proactively to help protect the community from any backlash. We also urge political, community and religious leaders to speak out against bigotry and hatred in all its forms." This statement is endorsed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ohio, Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, Islamic Society of Greater Columbus, Muslim American Society, Muslim Community Center, Arab Americans of Central Ohio.