For the second time in less than a month Muslim leaders here have had to condemn terror committed in the name of Islam, as they once more have proclaimed that these killers do not represent Islam’s billion adherents across the globe—a message that President Obama repeated in his Oval Office address to the nation Sunday night.
In Westbury, the Islamic Center of Long Island released a statement on its website saying it “strongly condemns the shooting incident in San Bernardino, California.”
In its statement, the ICLI, which recently unveiled an interfaith institute at the mosque, said it “stands with the victims and their families” while also calling on Congress to enact greater gun control measures.
“May God give comfort to survivors and give all of us resolve and wisdom to liberate our country from violence, fear, hate and anger,” the ICLI said.
In Suffolk County, Dr. Yousuf Syed, trustee of the Islamic Association of Long Island at the Selden Mosque, distributed a lengthy email titled “Open Letter to Fellow Americans, We Stand With Them in Solidarity in Condemning the Mass Shootings.”
“How could men like the San Bernardino killer…claim to be Muslim, when he has no respect for his own one year innocent baby child he left behind without mercy—I cannot call him an animal, because it would be an insult to animals,” the letter reads. “They would not abandon their off-springs like that.”
“Islam requires that Muslims possess ‘Upright Character,’ and deal justly with [the] entire human race, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, creed, and whether they are friend or foe—these are the teachings of Islam,” the letter notes.
Condemnation of the attacks echoed from coast to coast, as it did following the Nov. 13 assault on Paris.
Nationally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights group in the country, decried the massacre inside the conference room of the Inland Regional Center, which serves the developmentally disabled, which killed 14 and injured 21 others. The facility was being rented by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for a holiday party. What began as a normal workday turned into a tragedy as a seemingly radicalized and heavily armed husband and wife duo gunned down their unsuspecting victims. It was the largest radicalized Islamic attack on US soil since nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001.
“We condemn this horrific and revolting attack, and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured,” said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. “The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.”
Federal authorities have yet to publicly identify a motive in last week’s shooting in San Bernardino, but the FBI is investigating the rampage as terrorism. Both Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook were killed in a ferocious gunfight with authorities after they fled Inland Regional Center in a black SUV. Investigators now believe Malik had pledged allegiance to the self-declared Islamic State, citing her Facebook post under a different name that the social media site has since scrubbed.
Over the years, Muslim Americans have often been unfairly criticized for the false impression that they don’t outright condemn terrorism whenever it occurs, whether it’s at home or abroad. Muslim groups and interfaith leaders, however, say Muslims do repudiate terror but their statements don’t get nearly enough media attention.
Prior to the San Bernardino slayings, Muslim Americans were already on edge. They point to a wave of Islamophobia from presidential candidates and the public, as well as harsh rhetoric directed at Syrian refugees since the coordinated strikes in Paris last month which claimed 130 lives. CAIR has also documented troubling cases around the country when innocent Muslims have been the victims of reprisal and intimidation at their local mosques.
In a rare speech to the nation Sunday night from the Oval Office—his first since 2010—President Obama urged Americans not to conflate Islam with terrorism. Anti-Islam rhetoric, Obama said, only plays into the so-called Islamic State’s hands.
“We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want,” the president said, using another name for ISIS. “ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.
“Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim,” the president continued. “If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”