Muslim leaders are starting to speak out against Da’esh (ISIS) terrorism, over fears the backlash will hit their communities instead.
It’s not an unrealistic fear. After the “9/11″ Al Qaeda attacks on America on September 11, 2001, Americans looked at their Muslim neighbors quite differently. Law enforcement also became more aware of the prevalence of radical Islam, how it is spread and where it appears.
One of the biggest populations of Somali Muslim immigrants lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Somali American attorney Aman Obsiye told Reuters that he was, for the first time in his life, “fearful to be a Muslim in America.”
The Brussels attacks last week by Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists prompted a meeting between the city’s Muslim leaders and law enforcement officials, who said they would protect the community against hate crimes.
“I’m not a terrorist,” said Somali American Asthma Jama. “I’m an American citizen. I want to live in peace, just like everybody else.”
Political rhetoric from Republican candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has been cited by Muslim leaders as being particularly “scary.” They also say that rhetoric is being used as ammunition by terrorist groups in propaganda videos, “big time.”
But not all Muslim leaders think that’s bad. When GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for law enforcement last week to increase police presence in Muslim neighborhoods in the wake of the Brussels attacks, at least one Muslim activist agreed.
“We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” Cruz said, adding there was no room for “political correctness” in the current environment.
Dr. Zudi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), and a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant-Commander, defended Cruz’s stance. In an interview on Fox News last Thursday, Jasser said Cruz was right to encourage law enforce to take a more proactive role in Muslim neighborhoods to prevent radical Islamic terrorism.
“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation a few days after you had a cell that was operating four months apart… were being holed up by an organism of a community that was holding them away from the entire security apparatus of the European Union,” he said. “And yet we’re standing back and saying, ‘We shouldn’t be monitoring communities?’
“I’m not ready to give up any of my civil rights. All I’m saying is that as an American Muslim we patriotically want to help our community, help our country be safe,” Jasser said.
“We want to engage and embrace police, Homeland Security and if we’re going to engage them we need to welcome them into our community and into our mosques — not for illegal wiretaps but rather for engagement and relationship building.”
Cruz said his plan was similar to that used police to raise law enforcement presence in neighborhoods with known gang activity. “I’m talking about any area where there is a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
He also referred to the successful terror prevention program implemented in New York City under the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, involving surveillance of Muslim and other communities. That program faced a lawsuit in 2014, but the case was dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled the program did not discriminate against Muslims.
That program was nevertheless immediately dismantled under the current administration of Mayor Bill DeBlasio.
NYPD communications director J. Peter Donald tweeted in response, “Hey @tedcruz are our nearly 1K Muslim officers a “threat” too? It’s hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement.”
Cruz later clarified that his plan “does not mean targeting Muslims. It means targeting radical Islamic terrorism,” he told CNN. “I am talking about any area where there is a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism.”
Hana Levi Julian