NYC Muslim Leaders Denounce Violent Extremism

Islamic Center of Long Island
Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

Muslim leaders across New York City publicly condemned Tuesday acts of terror being perpetrated in the name of their religion and also unveiled their own plan to combat violent extremism by educating Muslims and non-Muslims alike through social media campaigns and interfaith efforts.

This was the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, whose members include more than a half-dozen Long Island mosques, decided to publicly “update our message” regarding violent extremism, the council’s president, Imam al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, told the Press in a phone interview Wednesday.

“The world has changed quite a bit since then [9/11], so we felt a need to sort of update our message in speaking out against violent extremism in today’s world, generally, and then particularly violent extremism that is coming within the Muslim community,” Abdur-Rashid said.

The four-point, city-wide initiative will launch on Friday with a simultaneous sermon in Mosques throughout the city, followed by a social media campaign focused on pro-justice and anti-extremist messages. The council also plans to continue its annual Mosque open-house event, which encourages Imams and Muslim leaders to invite neighbors of different faiths into their houses of worship for discussions about relevant issues. Lastly, the group is professing its continued interest in partnering with public officials and law enforcement on public safety issues and safeguarding civil rights.

Abdul-Rashid, who also serves as Imam at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, said the best way to combat the perception that many people have of Islam is through education.

“There’s a lot of confusion in this day and time of what’s permissible in Islam and what’s not permissible,” he said.

The recent beheadings of two American journalists and the brutal slayings of thousands by the so-called Islamic State has once again ignited a debate about Islam and its teachings. But Muslim leaders here and elsewhere continue to condemn such violence and have repeatedly said that terrorists’ interpretation of Islam is deranged. To reinforce that point, 120 Muslim scholars from across the globe penned an open-letter to Islamic State followers, refuting point-by-point their ideological views.

Abdul-Rashid said back in 2001, “global terrorism with a Muslim face was an anomaly,” but the world has changed considerably since then.

“Now, every time you turn on the television, there’s a violent extremist with a Muslim face who is engaging in actions that are unlawful according to Islamic law,” he said.

Yet, he added, they are trying to project their actions as “lawful and laudable.”

“These are urgent times,” Abdul-Rashid said. “Urgent times require urgent messages.”