Odette Aref of Hockessin says it will be up to the media to shape how Americans react to Tuesday’s arrest of immigrants allegedly plotting to attack Fort Dix — and whether their ethnicity is hyped for public fear.

Suspects have been described as “ethnic Albanians” — four from the former Yugoslavia, one Jordanian and one Turk — with no tie to known terrorists.

Aref, who is from Lebanon and whose husband is from Jordan, said she doubts there will be backlash against others of their backgrounds. But Aref, who is involved in the nonprofit People-to-People International peace-building group, said she is not sure what officials intend by calling the suspects “ethnic Albanians.”

About 800,000 ethnic Albanians live in the U.S., but no count is available for Delaware, said Van Christo, executive director of the Frosina Network, Albanian Immigrant and Cultural Resource, based in Massachusetts.

Most live in the New York-New Jersey area, he said, with clusters in New England. News describing the suspects as “ethnic Albanians” was a shock and surprise, Christo said, given Albanians’ deep loyalty to the United States. . .

Aref, who said she knows no Albanians in Delaware, said she expects people will see the suspects as individuals not representative of their home nations, faiths or ethnicities — unless the media “hypes” that aspect.

“It all depends how the news is,” she said.

Likewise, the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., issued a statement praising the arrests and urging media not to link the incident with the Muslim faith.

The group urged mosques and Islamic leaders to report any anti-Muslim backlash incidents — and “any suspected criminal activities that could harm the safety and security of our nation.”


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