Following the California shootings last week by a Pakistani-origin couple, tensions within the Muslim community have risen to an even higher level, with many condemning the attack in an attempt to separate Muslim identity from terrorism. American Muslims leaders’ Friday sermons echoed this message and urged congregants to step up their good works and community engagement.
One of such efforts were made by Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of the Greater Los Angeles Area, as he told congregants at the Islamic Center of Riverside that the shooters hurt everyone, with victims of various races and faiths, including a Muslim, Anies Kondoker, who regularly attended the mosque.
“This crime was not committed by a Muslim,” Ayloush said, explaining the shooters shouldn’t be identified by their Islamic faith. “It’s committed by a criminal.”
Speaking about the Islamic State he said, “There hasn’t been a group that’s caused more damage to Islam.”
Leaders stressed on the importance Islam lays on peace and how the shooter’s actions were against its basic values.
At the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles, religious advisor Jihad Turk, urged about 700 people not to retreat from the larger society, as uncomfortable as they may feel following both the San Bernardino and Paris massacres by those professing to be Muslim.
He highlighted, “We have tremendous opportunities in this country… to enjoy the benefits of this democracy and this freedom”, adding “we have responsibility to contribute to the betterment of this world.”
Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, spread a similar message to about 250 people at the Islamic Community Center of Redlandswhich. He asked old congregants to reach out to neighbours and form coalitions with those of other faiths and ethnic backgrounds.
In his sermon, Syed also offered sympathies to the victims and their families and appreciation for first responders to the scene. He counseled to be “vigilant but not paranoid.”
He pointed that the Friday service was attended by many non-Muslims as well, including educators from the University of Redlands and US Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands). However, there were also some, who still stood against them. Syed reported that at a candlelight vigil later Friday at the Islamic Society of Redlands, a man cursed him and, when Syed offered his hand, the other man spit on it. According to him there was also an “incoherent rant” against Muslims left on his office voicemail and bullet holes found at a Muslim-owned bookstore in Anaheim.
Besides, a group called Ministry 2 Muslims, which aims to convert Muslims to Christianity toted signs and attempted to hand Bibles translated into Arabic to worshipers entering the San Bernardino mosque, which one of the assailants, Farook used to visit.
Gasser Shehata, who remembers Farook’s excitement about becoming a father six months ago, said he wondered whether Farook’s Pakistani-born wife may have radicalised him.
“There is no radicalisation happening here at all,” he said of the mosque. “What we learn here is to love others.”
Assistant Imam Mahmoud Nadri was one of several mosque leaders who said he had been interviewed by the FBI.
He repeatedly said Farook’s crime “does not have anything to do with Muslims.”
“Only someone who is a psycho would do this,” he said.
“One very fundamental principal of Islam is the value of the life of a human being,” the speaker said.
He implored the mosque to come together to “differentiate between what are the teachings of Islam and what are the subversive and deviant concepts being introduced.”
This article originally appeared on the Los Angeles Times.