Muslim leaders across NYC are preaching simultaneously today against religious violence. The move was announced earlier this week by the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.
“There are violent extremists who are Muslims, but their acts of terrorism are not Islamic,” said council president Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, at a press conference Tuesday. “Our ultimate goal is to raise the level of awareness in a way that helps to inoculate the Muslim community against cries and appeals from elsewhere calling Muslims to violent extremism.”
They’ll be doing that not only with their sermons, but also with an…erm, unique social-media presence, noted Huffington Post religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem:
Majlis as-Shura (a coalition of NYC imams) launched a doozy of a hashtag campaign today: #MajlisShuraNYCforJusticeNotViolentExtremism
— Jaweed Kaleem (@jaweedkaleem) October 17, 2014
Ibrahim Hooper is a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national advocacy group based in D.C. He wasn’t part of the effort, but he says the sermons point to “a continuation of the consistent rejection of terrorism and violent extremism by the American Muslim community and its leadership.”
Stereotypes about Muslim communities as “extremist” have led to surveillance of mosques in the past. The NYPD has labeled certain New York mosques “terrorism enterprises” in order to spy on congregants and imams, for example. And the ACLU has reported cameras set up outside weddings to “track license plate numbers of congregants and attendees.”
But one 2007 police document — in between bizarre claims that “social activism” and “giving up urban hip-hop gangster clothes” suggest “progression along the radicalization continuum” — reveals another story. Actual extremists frequently feel a tension with places of worship that they consider insufficiently radical.
“Mosques are moderating influences in Muslim communities,” Hooper says. He describes violent online videos and sermons watched in isolation as a bigger concern. “When they go to a mosque, they’re less likely to engage in this kind of thing.
“It’s unfortunately part of the times we live in that Muslims are constantly asked to denounce extremism and violence — obviously we’d like to focus on more spiritual community-based efforts improving society,” he adds. “But we also have an obligation to prevent any kind of radicalization…and warn young people against it.”