American Muslim leaders gathered at Washington’s National Press Club late last month to release a scathing 17-page letter to the Islamic State that distanced mainstream Muslims from the militant group’s actions. But one prominent imam from Northern Virginia refused to give his endorsement.
“It sounded like they were apologizing for something they haven’t done, like they were running for cover,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
President Barack Obama has called on the world’s Muslims to “explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject” the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, while Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that Muslims need to “reclaim Islam.” In response, some of the largest Muslim organizations have issued sweeping condemnations of the militant group’s extremism. The letter unveiled at the National Press Club had the signatures of 126 prominent Islamic scholars, including the grand muftis of Egypt, Jerusalem, Bulgaria and Kosovo.
But not all Muslims have engaged in these condemnations. Many have written blog posts and created social media campaigns to criticize what they see as Muslim institutions’ knee-jerk instinct to decry faraway atrocities that are unconnected to their communities.
“Dr. King said we are all caught up in a network of mutuality — whatever affects one directly will indirectly affect the other,” Abdul-Malik said. “If I speak up against ISIS, it’s because I’m a human being, not because I’m a Muslim.”
Abdul-Malik has spoken frequently of the Islamic State in his Friday sermons at Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. His mosque is one of the largest Islamic prayer centers in the Washington, D.C. area, serving 3,000 worshippers each Friday.