The Crescent Report

December 10, 2009

U.S. Muslims Fight Domestic Extremism

Filed under: Extremism, Muslim Americans — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 9:08 pm

By Aisha Qidwae, IOL Staff

WASHINGTON (IOL) Dec. 10, 2009 – Leading American Muslim organizations and community leaders are planning to launch a website and organize a summit where young Muslims can ask mainstream scholars questions as part of renewed efforts to combat extremism.

“The idea is really to refute and counter the misuse of certain ayahs [verse of the Qur’an] and hadith [sayings of Prophet Muhammad] that are commonly misused by recruiters or young people who do not understand the depths and circumstances of revelations and just juxtapose superficial and disconnected meaning to justify their actions,” Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told IslamOnline.net.

He described the website as an online resource center for Muslims who are vulnerable to extremist ideologies.

The announcement coincided with reports about the arrest of five young American Muslims in Pakistan who are being investigated for possible extremist ties.

Many believe they are the same students who disappeared in late November from northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

Muslim families had reported the men missing, who are in their late teens to early twenties, to their local mosque, which called CAIR, the largest US Muslim advocacy group, which in turn informed the FBI.

One of the missing young men left a farewell video in which he juxtaposed Qur’anic verses and common grievances in the Muslim world.

US officials have not yet confirmed the identity of the young men held in Pakistan and their purpose for being there.

Usman Anwer, the District police officer in Sarghoda, Pakistan, confirmed to IOL Pakistan correspondent that the five arrestees are US nationals, including two of Pakistani background, one Yemeni origin and two of Egyptian background.

He identified them as Umer Farooq Ahmed, Ahmad Abdullah, Ramy Zamzam, Ihsan Hussein Yasser and Waqar-ul-Hassan Aman.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad told IOL they are working with the Pakistani government on the issue.

Youth Mentoring

In addition to putting together theological rebuttals to misused verses and hadith, CAIR, along with Muslim organizations, is organizing a summit where young Muslims can ask mainstream scholars questions at this year’s conference of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Muslim American Society.

The 8th Annual MAS-ICNA Conference will be held in Chicago from December 23 – 27.

Imam Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of MAS Freedom, said the summit will also reach out to young Muslims to do peer mentoring.

“That will focus on positive solutions involving issues of hate, violence and intolerance,” he told IOL.

“One has to recognize that there are real issues here and abroad. We need their [youth] voices to see how constructively they want us to address these issues in a nonviolent way.”

Bray personally knows Zamzam, a dental student at Howard University.

“If you said to me, that person would have gone to Pakistan to allegedly do what they’re doing, that person would have been the last person in my mind to think like that.”

Imams Role

Bray believes more imams and trained scholars should take steps to respond to incorrect ideas being promoted on the Internet, because young people get most of their information online and use social networking sites, blogs and links as modes of communications.

“They’re not out here writing, they’re not posting their stuff on the Internet,” he said about scholars and prominent Imams.

“Therefore, people are taking religious information in a vacuum.”

He cited the case of Nidal Hasan, a Muslim army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 fellow soldiers in a shooting spree at Fort Hood military base.

Hasan reportedly exchanged online communications with Anwar Awlaki, an American imam of Yemeni origin now living in Yemen who is accused of preaching extremism and violence.

Imam Bray said when someone says shooting unarmed civilians is worthy of praise, a comment attributed to Awlaki after the Fort Hood shooting, it deserves theological scrutiny from the Muslim community.

Prominent Muslim scholar Dr. Jamal Badawi had refuted Awlaki’s claim that the shooting tragedy was an act of Jihad against the enemies of Islam.

“The Qur’an and Sunna allow the use of force only as a last resort and only in two cases; to resist oppression or in defense against aggression,” he explains.

“You don’t just sneak and attack without declaration. This is not in accordance with Islamic ethics,” Dr Badawi told IOL after the attack.

The Fort Hood shooting had also drawn immediate condemnation from all leading American Muslim organizations, including CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Imam Bray underlined the importance of a continued investment in American-born imams so they can respond to contemporary issues.

“Is just going sitting in a Halaqa [religious discussion] gives enough solitude and knowledge and development for our young people today, or are we missing something?” he asked.

“Is the Tarbiyah [education] within our organizations meeting the instructional needs and desires of our young people today?

“That is the challenge for all of us.”

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