Minnesota Muslims: ISIL is not Islam

Published 10:17 am Monday, October 6, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Muslims across Minnesota are using social media and community events to educate the general public that beheadings and other violent messages spread by the Islamic State group do not represent the religion of Islam.

Muslims worldwide celebrated Eid al-Adha this weekend, a religious holiday that is rooted in prayer and charity. Some Minneapolis-area families gathered Saturday for prayer and socializing at Masjid An-Nur mosque in north Minneapolis.

“This is Islam,” Makram El-Amin, the mosque’s imam said. “All Muslims across the world are observing this at the same time. It’s the opposite of a minute group in Syria and Iraq perpetrating crimes in the name of Islam.”

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Lori Saroya, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslim groups have tried to be proactive in helping others understand their faith. Leaders from about 50 Muslim groups gathered weeks ago to discuss many issues, including creating a community roundtable to bring Muslim leaders and local government officials together.

Community groups also are using public events as a platform. For example, the Islamic Resource Group set up an educational exhibit at the Minnesota Museum of American Art on Friday before it screened the film “Reel Bad Arabs: Images of Arabs and Muslims in Popular Culture.”

Saroya said CAIR will highlight the issue at several outreach events, including the Muslim Youth Leadership Forum later this month.

“If we don’t get out there, this is the only dialogue people see,” Saroya said.

Local Muslims said it’s clear there has been a shift in public opinion. Mashood Yunus experienced it firsthand this year at the Minnesota State Fair. Two days before the fair started, the videotaped beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley went public. Yunus’ group, Building Blocks of Islam, set up its booth as usual. But this year he got a cool reception, with some people even yelling or giving him a thumbs-down gesture. His group handed out more than 2,000 brochures about Islam this year, compared with more than 5,000 in prior years.

“People this year were not in the mood to discuss this,” he said.

Nationally, more than 120 Muslim scholars have signed an open letter condemning the Islamic State group. A younger group of Muslims also launched a hashtag campaign, (hash)NotInMyName, to remind the world that the Islamic State group doesn’t represent their religion.