In the Media

07/01/06: Local Muslims condemn Sears Tower plot, note men not Muslim

Arab American News- July 1, 2006

Local Muslims condemn Sears Tower plot, note men not Muslim

By Aatif Ali Bokhari  --  The Arab American News: 

DETROIT – The Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Michigan) held a press conference here on Friday, June 23, 2006, to condemn an alleged plot to blow up government buildings and the Sears Tower in Chicago and to be sure the media understood that the perpetrators were "not Muslims."

The notion that the individuals caught were Muslims clearly irked Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, as well as other Muslim community leaders, who gathered at the Muslim Center of Detroit.

A press release distributed by CAIR-Michigan at the event stated, "the individuals were not Muslims, and noted, "They are a group that has blended Christianity with Islam as evident from statements that they study the Bible. We ask media outlets not to refer to the individuals as Muslims."

Nevertheless, once the news of the sting operation came out, the mainstream media did exactly that, surmising that the individuals were Muslims because they reportedly gave respect to Osama Bin Laden.

"These people are not Muslims, we do not recognize them as such, and even if they were, we condemn their conduct," said Walid.

Last Saturday, AP reported that a close friend of one of the arrested men said that the seven men accused of plotting terrorism claim to follow teachings of the Moorish Science Temple of America, a religion that blends aspects of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and stresses self-discipline through martial arts.

"Calling these people radical Muslims, brings harassment. … I think some people in the media have been very unfair and irresponsible in this situation. How could they be bringing such confusion to the situation?" asked Mohamed Ali Elahi, imam of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.

Elahi noted that the seven apprehended in Miami said that they attended a temple, not a mosque or Islamic center, contrary to mainstream Islamic practices.

"I hope [the media] apologizes to the Muslim community for bringing such damage to our image. We are one on the issue of terrorism. We don't have good and bad terrorists. Under any form of ideology, terrorism is evil," said Elahi.

"But why is it that some people are trying to bring the community into disrepute? I think that is a very serious question."

"Perhaps there are some misguided people who are non-Muslims who have respect for Osama Bin Laden, but that does not mean that they are Muslims," said Walid, who added, "some Palestinians may respect Che Gueverra but that does not mean that they are socialists."

"People are getting confused. ... One minute we are hearing that they are Muslims, the next minute we are hearing that they are studying the Bible," said Elahi.

"Do you know for a fact that these people are not Muslim?" asked one reporter.

"We know for a fact that these gentlemen are not Muslim," replied Dawud Walid. "Every time there are high profile cases, there is harassment and vandalizing of mosques … this is why we wanted to call this press conference immediately.

"It's unfortunate that this group is hollering loudly and getting all this attention," but that doesn't represent mainstream Muslims, said Abdullah El-Amin, imam of the Muslim Center.

After the press conference, Mustapha Elturk, imam of the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren, said, "I think the meeting was successful, but only if the media portrays the press conference as it really happened."

Walid feared that with the way the media is covering the sting, Muslims could likely become the target of hate. He called for "police departments to step up their patrols around mosques to deter potential hateful backlash."

The press

release said, "The American Muslim community condemns all political violence regardless of its source, and we stand together with local and national law enforcement authorities in seeking to keep our nation safe and secure."