Fear and Misunderstanding Continue to Plague Muslim Community


The two individuals who are suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing have been identified as Muslims and many speculate they were radicalized in some way. Many in the Muslim community have spoken out against the violent acts, including Islamic Center of Passaic County Outreach Director Mohamed El filali. He told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the aftermath of the terrorist act is difficult for all Americans and particularly Muslims because of the possibility of backlash.

El filali said members of the Muslim community are the “first to address the issue of violence and we condemn it from the onset.” He said within hours of the crime in Boston, his organization spoke out against it.

He called the bombing “an act of violence that has destroyed innocent lives, that has taken the fiber of the American people to a different dimension where we would not want to be all together.”

One report has surfaced claiming the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, disrupted a sermon at a mosque near Boston by a spiritual leader who was discussing Dr. Martin Luther King in a positive light. El Filali said such action is uncalled for. “For people to interrupt a sermon or interrupt a discussion, it’s very uncivilized and just speaks volumes for the personality of the person who committed the crime,” he said. “It’s unlike the etiquette of every Muslim, especially in a place of worship.”

Fear and misunderstanding of the unknown has been an issue in the Muslim community. To help combat that, El filali said the Islamic Center of Passaic County has been engaging others, including law enforcement institutions, colleges and universities and houses of worship to create a level of understanding. He said such communication is crucial to the coexistence of all religious elements.

“I think it’s extremely important that the doors need to be open and understanding should be created and also engagement of discussion, real deep discussion of what really we abhor as all religious entities, whether Muslim, Christian or Jews,” El filali said. “There’s not one single person that would like violence in society.”

The suspects’ uncle claims the elder brother was radicalized. El filali said in his more than 20 years in New Jersey, he hasn’t seen radical elements. “Our preaching, our sermon, our subject and our discussion is always to praise non-violent discussion. Yes, we could criticize issues but it is not to be violent in society,” he said.

Some who subscribe to radical thinking have used the internet as a tool to spread their message. While El filali said the internet can be used both for and against people, he said it’s important to remember that the suspects were believed to have acted alone.

“I cannot speak for the motive as to why they did such a heinous crime. It’s a violence that we need to speak against. We need to do everything in our powers to not let it happen again in our society, whether this or crime shooting of innocent children in schools or what have you,” El filali said.

Reaching out to young people, who are often looking for a cause to believe in, is important, according to El filali.

“I think it’s extremely important that we address the issues of youth, especially the pressures that’s around them. And sometimes they don’t act rationally. They act based on emotions and sometimes emotions will lead them to act in a very silly way,” El filali said. “Yes, we address the issues of the youth. We put a great deal of attention and effort on youth and youth discussions, for sure.”