Muslim Leader Calls Attack In Central IL 'Unlikely' | WGLT

Muslim Leader Calls Attack In Central IL 'Unlikely'

Jun 14, 2016

Sheheryar Muftee of the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal addresses a Not In Our Town rally following the Paris terrorist attacks last fall.

Terrorist attacks can occur in any city, but a leader of the local Muslim community says he believes one like the mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando this weekend might be less likely to happen here.

Sheheryar Muftee of the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal says local Muslims are a tight-knit community that rejects violence.

Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Muftee said, "All of us know each other pretty well. If people are not attending the mosque, we check on them. We have contacts with the joint terrorism task force of the FBI and local law enforcement, so I think it's very, very unlikely something like this could happen, but no one can definitely say."

Muftee said the leaders at Bloomington-Normal's three mosques often preach against the use of violence.

"The three mosques are very proactive in preaching against hate of any kind, preaching against strong views on religion. We have lots of programs for kids and youth and we try to show them positive things in their religion and keep them away from minority hate groups that are out there," Muftee said.

Muftee urged local residents not to equate terrorism with Islam, the religion.

He said ISIS and other terrorist groups, as well as the San Bernardino and Orlando attackers, "call themselves Muslim but they are not practicing Muslims. They are taking the name of Islam and dragging it through the mud."

He called the phrase "radical Islamic terrorist," which is being used by Republican presidential candidate  Donald Trump, an unfair characterization of  the vast majority of the world's 1.1 billion Muslims.

In a 911 phone call during the the Orlando attack , 29-year-old Omar Mateen, a U.S. citizen, pledged allegiance to ISIS. But investigators now believe he acted on his own and was motivated as much by a hatred of gays as any religious belief. Some 49 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

Muftee said he believed the Orlando attack was a hate crime directed at gays rather than a politically motivated act of terror. He said he also believes Mateen, who was killed by police, suffered from severe mental illness that was influenced by jihadist propaganda.

Islam considers homosexual behavior a sin, Muftee says, but also condemns murder and violence against individuals because of their sexual orientation or identity.

He said homosexuals would be welcome to join Muslims in prayer at the Islamic Center.

Muftee said he intends to attend a prayer vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting Wednesday evening at St. John's Lutheran Church in Bloomington. He said he hopes to publicly express the local Muslim community's "sorrow and regret" over the tragedy at the prayer service. 

The vigil will take place from 5  p.m. to 8 p.m.