'He’s not us; we’re not him' - say Atlanta Muslim leaders on Orlando shooter

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Rest of World
Monday, 13 June 2016

When Muhammad al-Ninowy awoke this morning to the news of the massacre at an Orlando nightclub, one of his first thoughts was, “I hope it’s not a Muslim.”

Once he learned that the shooter, Omar Mateen, had in fact aligned himself with ISIS, al-Ninowy dutifully composed a statement denouncing the worst mass shooting in American history.

“Yet again we find ourselves condemning the irrational and ungodly actions of a madman who was misguided by a wicked and corrupt social and/or political ideology that twists and misinterprets Islam to justify what can only be termed as satanic actions,” wrote al-Ninowy, president and founder of the Madina Institute USA, a Duluth mosque and seminary.

Such condemnations were echoed from virtually every mainstream Muslim group in the Atlanta area and beyond.

“Tolerance and acceptance must be shown to all individuals, regardless of their race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation,” stated the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Center.

Imam Arshad Anwar, leader of Roswell Community Masjid, promised the Muslim community will “continue its efforts to combat extremism and encourage tolerance.”

And the Masjid Uthman mosque in Dunwoody said, “There can never be any justification for such cowardly and criminal acts.”

Yet amid the nearly uniform condemnation exists a frustration among many Muslims who don’t believe they should be held responsible for the actions of fanatics.

“We’re not even allowed to process these events before we’re called on to condemn them,” said Abbas Barzegar, an assistant professor of religion at Georgia State University.

But he acknowledged “perception is reality and Americans are hysterical about Islam and we need to respond to it.”

Barzegar said he’d prefer a more proactive approach, calling on Muslims to seek dialogue with the religion’s most fervent critics.

“It’s almost become a ritual,” he said of the condemnations of violence by mainstream Muslim leaders. “I’m not sure it even means anything anymore.”

Many adherents also regret that the attacks occurred so soon after the death of Muhammad Ali, recognized as a unifying force who “embodied the best of the world’s Muslim community, not this mass murderer,” according to Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

A statement coordinated by CAIR was co-signed by 15 local Muslim groups. The organization has also launched a blood drive in solidarity with the victims in Orlando.

Meanwhile, the current political climate has left some Muslims more concerned than ever about a potential backlash.

“One of the most frustrating things as a parent is my inability to completely protect my children from the hateful rhetoric that follows one of these events,” said community activist Nidal Ibrahim, who has two children, ages 10 and 7. Because of those concerns, he said he was “relieved” school is out for the summer.

Al-Ninowy acknowledged “there is a cancer in our midst — they are people who claim to follow the religion we believe in and hold dearly, but their actions violate the very core principles of the religion and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.”

It’s a message he’s repeated many times, often to deaf ears.

Of Mateen, al-Ninowy said: “He's not us. We’re not him. I don’t know what else to say."

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