North Jersey Record - November 7, 2017

Muslims decry double standard after NYC-Texas attacks

Staff Writer Hannan Adely

In the days after the recent terror attack in New York City, Paterson mosques fielded death threats, and Muslim Americans were again called to explain the actions of one individual whose violent acts don't reflect the tenets of their faith. 

Having to denounce an act committed in the name of their faith is a double standard, say Muslim leaders, who reluctantly step into that role even as other groups aren't asked to do the same.

“Every time one of these idiots does something they claim to be doing in whatever religion, our community is forced — there's a sense of obligation — that we have to come out and condemn it, which I believe is unfair,” said Salah Mustafa, outreach director at the Islamic Center of Passaic County, a mosque in Paterson. “It’s not as if other communities have to condemn these acts.”

On Sunday, those concerns were even more apparent, when Devin Patrick Kelley, a non-Muslim man, opened fire at a Texas church, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others. The event has not been labeled terrorism, and no faith leaders are being asked to condemn the person’s actions. Similarly, Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, has not been labeled a terrorist.

It stands in contrast with the attack a week ago, when Sayfullo Saipov allegedly struck and killed eight people with a rented truck in lower Manhattan on Halloween. Saipov, who recently moved to Paterson and who authorities say was inspired by ISIS, was immediately labeled a terrorist.

Some Muslim leaders publicly decried terrorism, including the imam of the Omar Mosque in Paterson, where some neighbors said Saipov had prayed. Other Muslim groups released statements against the attack, saying it was a distortion of their faith. 

“If someone is saying 'Allahu Akbar' and doing this in the name of Islam, we have to remind people that the vast majority of Muslims regard this as a perversion of Islam," said James Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, referring to the popular Arabic phrase meaning "God is the greatest." "I can’t imagine any line of logic that supports the ideology that says killing innocent people is a good thing.”  

“I hope that day will come soon where we are not forced to stand up and make claims against someone who we have nothing to do with and we reject he or she everything that they have done,” Mustafa said. “We absolutely reject it.”

After the attack in New York, three New Jersey mosques reported that they received calls threatening violence and arson, and local Muslim residents said they felt singled out for scrutiny over their faith....

Labeling terrorism

In the hours after the shooting Sunday, many flocked to social media to question why the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs attackers weren’t being called terrorists.

“You’d be hard-pressed to tell me those people were not terrorized,” said Sues. “Those people in Las Vegas at that concert were certainly terrorized. The fact they were not called terrorist by everybody — that kind of exposed the fact that 'terrorism' is a word reserved exclusively for Muslims.”

Authorities say the shooting on Sunday did not appear to be fueled by racial or religious issues. They noted that there had been domestic problems and that the shooter had sent threatening messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church.

Dylan Roof did not face terrorism charges for his killing spree at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Instead, he was charged with hate crimes.....

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