For the past few months, ISIS militants have been increasing their attacks in the Middle East against innocent civilians and foreigners while spreading their hegemony over larger areas in the Fertile Crescent. Muslims across the world have watched with terror the savage group’s banners of deception that speak falsely in the name of religion, and have been condemning the group as an extremist heretic terrorist organization. Muslim Americans were among the first to denounce ISIS collectively and individually. Dallas Muslims were the latest voices that joined the march of protest against this mad fanatic group.
Yesterday, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) organized a press conference in Dallas, where several American Muslim community leaders condemned ISIS and its actions. The Muslim representatives included members from both Sunni and Shia sects, clergy members, law professionals, and civic leaders. A number of media outlets covered the press conference and reporters had a chance to ask questions afterwards.
Alia Salem, Executive Director of CAIR-DFW, led the press conference and introduced all the speakers. Salem opened with a statement: “ISIS does not represent Islam.” She expressed her concerns that the general American public has shown signs of fear and misinformation about ISIS and its illegitimate representation of Islam. As a result, many American Muslims have received death threats and hate messages. CAIR has issued a nationwide alert for American Muslims to be diligent in public. However, Salem emphasized that Muslims cannot, and will not, hide in their homes out of fear. Instead, they need to go out in public, have their voices heard, and lead their normal lives while feeling secure. Salem pointed out that American Muslims want security for all. She reminded the audience that CAIR is a civil rights advocacy group and its primary responsibility is to attend to American Muslims rights and safety.
Salem concluded with sending condolences to all families of all the victims who fell under the brutality of ISIS. Special condolences were sent to the families of American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotlof who Salem described as having had “humanitarian voices of those oppressed.”
Another speaker at the press conference was Dallas resident Azhar Azeez who is the newly elected President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Azeez said that ISNA repeatedly renews its commitment against extremism. He called those extremist militant fighters as “criminals and not martyrs.” He listed that radical organizations like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and Al Shabab among others have “no basis in Islam.”
Speaker Assef Efindi, with the Institute of Islamic Learning, represented the Shia community in the press conference. He recalled with extreme regret the hundreds of thousands of shias who have been killed in the Middle East by ISIS and other extremists. Shias are a Muslim minority who has been targeted along with other minorities by Sunni extremist militants for the past decades.
Attorney Khaled Hamideh spoke decisively: “Neither ISIS nor its actions represent Islam.” He added that American Muslims, especially in the Dallas community, are “not represented by ISIS or any other group overseas.” When asked about how the American Muslim community and its leaders feel about the US military intervention against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Hamideh clearly stated that everyone is concerned with saving innocent lives from death. This includes Americans, first and foremost, he stressed. Alia Salem added to Hamideh’s statement that American Muslim pacifists represent probably an equal side of the opinion about military action. She explained that their community is divided between supporters of and opponents to military intervention.
This public condemnation should offer a soothing relief to many Americans who have not had a chance to inform themselves about realities of Islamic issues and affairs. It is a decent act on the part of the American Muslim community to show its civil participation in public information. However, is it really an obligation upon every Muslim to go on T.V. and condemn ISIS and other savage organizations? Do Christians do the same when the KKK commits its own acts of violence? Muslims in America have been put under a lot of pressure and in situations where they have had to prove their innocence to crimes others, somewhere else, committed.
Finally, a first of a kind event will take place tomorrow in Washington, D.C. National CAIR, in cooperation with the Fiqh Council of North America, will hold a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to issue a first-of-its-kind open letter in Arabic by more than 100 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders offering a religious refutation of the extremist ideology of the terrorist group ISIS. Since Muslims don’t have a highest religious authority that represents them, this event will be similar to the Pope of the Vatican issuing a statement. So stay tuned to tomorrow’s press conference’s coverage.