US Muslims concerned post-Chattanooga

American Muslims worry about Muslim youth becoming home-grown militants and ordinary Muslims becoming unfair targets

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

American Muslims are concerned about being targets of Islamophobia following the Chattanooga attacks which left five marines dead after a gunman opened fire at a military recruiting centre and Navy Reserve centre on Thursday.

Violent acts perpetrated by such people result in Islamophobic activity towards the ordinary Muslims living in the West, and Muslims say they are unfairly targeted by counter-terrorism laws, as militant groups fragment the true image of Islam and carry out attacks on civilians.

Imam Mohamed Abdul Azeez addressed a Muslim crowd in Sacramento, California at the end of Ramadan, urging them to combat pro-militant views following Thursday’s tragic shooting Rampage in Tennessee whose suspect was a young Muslim man from Chattanooga.

It is still not certain why the man, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, carried out the shootings, as the FBI is currently investigating the act and motives of the gunman.

"When they talk about Syria, when they talk about Tennessee ... what will they say about the American Muslim community?" Azeez said on Friday, asserting that the Muslim community needs to find ways to hinder youth from being drawn in to such ideologies.

The imam went on to say that home-grown militants and their violent acts do not represent the true essence of Islam, but twist the “spirit of Allah (God)” for their own agenda by mandating an austere doctrine that is far from the true teachings of the religion.

Chicago-based activist Ahmed Rehab says militant groups misread the Quran and distort the interpretation of certain verses when anybody points out that Islam condones their violent behaviour.

There are many exemplars of Muslim scholars and academics in the West who condemn terrorism, and articulate the need for combatting militancy, such as Yasir Qadhi, professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, who emphasises on religious teachings that condone violence.

Qadhi said he has consequently received occasional death threats from militant groups such as ISIS, as well as far-right American groups, as he focuses on the acknowledgement that young people are often attracted to groups like ISIS because they think they are standing up for oppressed Muslims by doing so.

He further asserts that there is a need to use history and theology to combat such ideologies.

"Simple condemnations are not going to get to the hearts and minds of these people," he says.

Several Muslim imams say that youth who’ve become militant-minded mostly stop coming to their mosques, and turn to the company of militant recruiters on the internet, so it is hard to help them be rid of their mind-set.

Recently, a British Muslim scholar published a 900-page religious curriculum to be taught in Muslim schools. The curriculum focuses on Muslim teachings and the values that thwart the ideas of violence in Islam.

Muslims in Sacramento have set up a hotline for Muslims to call when they feel anxious or stressed, according to Irfan Haq, president of the Council of Sacramento Islamic Organizations.

Meanwhile, Muslim organisations have come together in the US and managed to collect more than $20,000 for the rebuilding of eight African American churches that were torched since the Charleston Massacre throughout the US in a campaign called “Respond with Love.”

The Muslim organisations who collected the large sum of money in solidarity with African American Christians were, “Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative,” the “Arab-American Association of New York” and “Ummah Wide.”

“We want for others what we want for ourselves: the right to worship without intimidation, the right to safety, and the right to property,” they said.

TRTWorld and agencies