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Muslims in America condemn extremists and fear anew for their lives
December 7, 2015, 8:38 am
Students march at a rallyagainst Islamophobia inSan Diego, California.

Say they observed an escalation in hateful episodes after anti-Muslim remarks by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson

Only hours after news broke that the suspects in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, had a Muslim name, the well-practised organisations that represent American Muslims to the broader public kicked into action, as they routinely do after each terror attack attributed to Islamic extremists.

They issued news releases condemning the attacks as inhuman and un-Islamic, posted expressions of grief on Facebook and held news conferences in which Muslim leaders stood flanked by American flags alongside clergy of other faiths and law enforcement officials.

“Groups like ISIS [Daesh] and Al Qaida,” Salam Al Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, “are trying to divide our society and to terrorise us. Our message to them is we will not be terrorised and we will not be intimidated,” either by the terrorists or, he said, “by hatemongers who exploit the fear and hysteria that results from incidents like this.”

But the message is apparently not getting through. Muslims and leaders of mosques across the United States say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

They say they observed an escalation in hateful episodes this fall after anti-Muslim remarks by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The threats, vandalism and violence grew more frequent and frightening after the attacks by Daesh militants last month in Paris.

Now, with the FBI saying that one of those responsible for the San Bernardino massacre had expressed Daesh sympathies on Facebook, US Muslims are bracing for more hate directed their way. Overnight Friday, vandals broke all the windows at the Islamic Centre of Palm Beach in Florida, turned over furniture in the prayer room and left bloody stains throughout the facility. The FBI is investigating death threats left by voice mail at a mosque in Manassas, Virginia.

The attacks have left American Muslims feeling defensive and vulnerable just as the San Bernardino attack is forcing them to come to grips with the prospect that the threat from terrorists within their midst is very, very real.

The attack in San Bernardino, which left 14 victims dead and 21 injured, was in many ways the nightmare scenario for Muslims trying to gain full acceptance in American society: Syed Rizwan Farouq, the husband who committed mass homicide with his wife, was raised in the United States and was an American citizen. He had a college education, a stable job, a comfortable home and a baby, and displayed no outward signs of anger, mental illness or radicalisation. He worshipped and was known at several local mosques.

At one of those mosques — Dar Al-Uloom Al-Islamiyah in San Bernardino, down a long road and surrounded by palm trees — Imam Mahmood Nadvi said he had never detected any warning signs in the few conversations he had had with Farouq, an inspector for the county health department.

“Everyone had an image of him being a successful person,” Nadvi said. “He had a degree. He had a good post.”

The imam called the shooting a shock and a mystery. Farouq, he said, “does not even represent humanity.”

Mahoor Nadvi, a teacher and assistant imam, said the mosque had received threats. “This all has to do with ignorance,” he said.

In a news conference Friday, lawyers for Farouq’s family cautioned the public against jumping to conclusions about the attackers’ motivations. One lawyer, David Chesley, said the FBI’s claim that Farouq’s wife, Tashfeen Malek, had pledged allegiance to Daesh on Facebook was “nebulous” evidence.

“Until there is absolute, clear evidence, every headline doesn’t have to say ‘Muslim massacre’ or ‘Muslim shooters,’ because it’s going to cause intolerance,” Chesley said.

However, Muslim Americans are now confronting the fact that to many Americans, Farouq and other terrorists do represent Islam — especially since polls show that most Americans know no Muslims and little about Islam.

“My identity and everything that I am becomes erased every time one of these incidents occurs,” said Nabihah Maqbool, 27, a law student at the University of Chicago. “It all becomes collapsed into these senseless acts of violence being committed by people who are part of my group.”

In recent weeks, American Muslims have report a spate of violence and intimidation against them: women wearing head scarves accosted; Muslim children bullied; bullets shot at a mosque in Meriden, Connecticut; faeces thrown at a mosque in Pflugerville, Texas.

Omair Siddiqi said he had been about to get into his car in the parking lot of a shopping mall in the Dallas suburbs last month when a man came up to him, flashed a gun and said, “If I wanted to, I could kill you right now.”

Siddiqi said he stayed quiet and the man walked away. Siddiqi called 911 and is now in the process of getting a concealed-handgun permit. “It’s very scary in times like this,” he said.

Source: Gulf News

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