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Domestic Radicals a Concern for U.S. Muslims

By Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed

President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.

Louisville, KY


By Dr. A. R. Tak

President, Islamic Center of Louisville, Louisville, KY


This is in reference to a News article with the title "Domestic Radical a Concern for U.S." published in the Courier-Journal of October 2, 2006.

We are living as American Muslims in Louisville, for the past 30 years. We are happy and proud to be Americans for the great opportunities and freedoms we enjoy. After 9/11, being an American Muslim means facing mountains of bad media hype. The American Muslim population continues to grow and the polls show that Muslims in the United States today are facing a rising tide of negative public opinion. A recent survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that about a quarter of all Americans think “the Muslim religion teaches violence and hatred.” A CBS poll taken in April reports that less than one in five Americans have a favorable impression of Islam.

Most dare not complain openly, religious and civic leaders say, for fear of being labeled unpatriotic or sympathetic to extremists.

Opinion polls back up what American Muslims say they feel every day: Masses of the U.S. populace view them negatively. In a USA Today/Gallup poll released in August, 39 percent of Americans said they feel prejudiced toward Muslims. Nearly one quarter of Americans polled said they would not want a Muslim as a neighbour. Another 39 percent want Muslims to carry special identification at all times and undergo enhanced security checks when boarding airplanes.

American Muslims live under a cloud of suspicion today. At the same time there is a significant frustration among the Muslim community.  Muslims want to speak out against terrorism but the media isn’t picking it up.

Muslims today are living in an atmosphere of “confinement.” After 9/11, thousands of Muslims were rounded up and deported. Millions of dollars in Muslim bank accounts were frozen. Prominent leaders were arrested, often on terrorism charges that were then reduced to minor infractions unrelated to terrorism. There’s an issue of harassment and discrimination.  Meanwhile Muslims face “emerging Islamophobia” coming from a particular group of fundamentalist Christian leaders, conservative talk show hosts on TV and radio and a raft of so-called “experts” who describe Islamic centers as centers of terrorism.

What Muslims are learning when they read American history is that this happened to other ethnicities in the past. It happened to Catholic Americans; it happened to German Americans, it happened to Japanese Americans. Afro-Americans suffered when their civil liberties were denied and Jews suffered due to Anti-Semitism.

Recently three Palestinian-American men were arrested on suspicion of terrorism ties in Michigan and charged with "collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes." The men were stopped by authorities after buying 80 pre-paid cell phones at a Wal-Mart. Their van contained nearly a thousand such phones, and the men said they planned to re-sell them at profit. They were released without charge.

Nearby, in Ohio, a prosecutor  said he lacked evidence to present felony terrorism charges against two more Arab-American men arrested in a similar incident one week before over bulk cell phone buys.

Plots were thwarted in recent weeks to blow up national landmarks like the Chicago’s Sears Tower. The suspects were not Muslims.

The Oklahoma City bombing was a terrorist attack on April 19, 1995, in which the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a U.S. government office complex in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was destroyed, killing 168 people.  It is the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in the history of the United States and was the deadliest act of terrorism within U.S. borders until September 11, 2001. Two men later convicted of the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and his friend Terry Nichols, had sympathies with the anti-government militia movement. McVeigh later claimed that his aim was to avenge the Waco Siege.   Within hours after a truck bomb blew up the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, word was out that "Islamic extremists" were responsible. Timothy McVeigh's court-appointed attorney, Steven Jones, summarized the initial rush to blame the Oklahoma City Bombing on Muslim terrorists while arguing for a motion to review CIA investigations following the blast. For three days Muslims lived in fear. The accusers and blamers never apologized to the Muslims.

Journalists are trained to report the "who, what, when, where, how, and why" of events. However, most U.S. media, seldom identify the religion of the lead figure or organization in any story except when it is Muslim. The "who" is very seldom Christians and Christianity. It is invariably Muslims and Islam. This assigning of guilt by association demonizes all Muslims, and precludes opportunities for more meaningful dialog.

The reporting on the bombing in Oklahoma City is a good example. When terrorism "experts," based upon little or no evidence, blamed Middle Eastern terrorists, Muslims were immediately accused. But when McVeigh was caught, and alleged to be the bomber, there was no mention of Christians. In the case of Muslims, guilt by association cast blame on more than a billion Muslims worldwide. In the case of Christians, blame was narrowed, and rightly so, to McVeigh and his accomplices.

The Louisville Muslim Community is fortunate to have an outreach program created by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The Law Enforcement officials visit Louisville Mosques and communicate with the Imams and Muslim community leaders. They hold annual receptions to Muslim community leaders from all over the state of Kentucky.  The Louisville Muslim Community strongly condemns terrorism and violence.  We expect people in responsible positions not to promote or to avoid religious hatred.  We appreciate Louisville Civic leaders like Mayor Jerry Abramson for their concentrated efforts to promote harmony, peace and understanding of diversity in Louisville's population.

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