Islamic Center in West Chester speaks out against terror attacks

Officials say ‘senseless violence’ betrays their deepest religious and ethnical commandments.

“We at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati sadly know that while no words could console the families of the victims of senseless violence in Paris, Beirut, Iraq and countless in Syria, we offer our deepest condolences and prayers for collective healing,” read the statement posted Saturday to the center’s Facebook page. “We also call on the French legal authorities to apply all available resources in aggressively pursuing and bringing to justice the perpetrators of the heinous crimes Friday evening in Paris.”

Founded in 1995, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati is located on Plantation Drive in West Chester Twp. Much of the center’s outreach efforts focus on dispelling the notion that Islam condones violent acts of any kind.

The Islamic Center said it condemns “in the strongest terms the extreme acts of violence that have been inflicted upon the citizens of Paris and other locations. “

“Regardless of the motives of the attackers, such brutal, ruthless and indiscriminate action demonstrates the utter lack of humanity of both the attackers, and those who back them by fanning an ideology of intolerance,” the center said in the statement.

“We join affiliates across the country of ING, Islamic Networks Group, and all other major Muslim American institutions in sincere hope that the world will respond by coming together in support of France, and not allow these tragic events to further create artificial barriers and perpetuation of violence,” officials said in the statement.

The region’s Muslim community is “horrified” at the attacks in Paris, said Shakila Ahmad, president of the board for the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.

“It’s horrible,” Ahmad said. “No matter where it happens, the loss of innocent lives is just not excusable.”

Speaking out against the violence is “the right thing to do,” she said.

“We’re citizens of humanity, so the tragedy against other human beings, innocent human beings, is something that we as Muslims and as human beings absolutely feel we have to speak up for,” Ahmad said. “There are both heinous criminals that commit these atrocities, as well as other people who have their own political or personal agenda that try to perpetuate that this has anything to do with the religion of Islam.

“As an Islamic institution, as American Muslims, we want to very clearly and vehemently let people know and understand that these actions are completely un-Islamic, regardless of who commits these atrocities.”

Monday’s condemnation was by no means a first for center, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, Ahmad said. It has spoken out against acts of terror and violence throughout its history, including in January following an attack at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

In July 2014, the Islamic Center condemned the abduction of over 250 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist organization Boko Haram.

It also condemned terrorist attacks in London and Boston, as well as the Benghazi attack on the U.S. embassy, which it labeled a “cowardly action which resulted in the killing of our ambassador to Libya, as well as three other personnel.”

The center also has sent condolences and support following a shooting at the Jewish Community Center & Assisted Living Centers in Missouri in 2014, a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and church bombings in Nigeria in 2011.

“Anytime something happens against Jews or Christians in any part of the world, we always issue a statement condemning this, showing our support and solidarity,” said Dr. Salem Foad, an Islamic Center co-founder. “This has been an ongoing process, but unfortunately many in the public are not aware of it.”

Foad said despite the center “always issuing condemnations,” he is always asked why the Islamic Center is not doing so.

My answer is ‘You are not seeing it because we have been issuing condemnations until we are blue in the face,’” he said. “Sometimes they are being published and sometimes they are not. It’s not for lack of effort that we are doing this.”

A group of Islamic scholars from Egypt and other countries in 2014 issued an open letter to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi explaining to him from the Koran and traditions of the prophet Muhammadthat all of Islamic State’s actions go against the teachings of Islam.

Foad said the Koran specifically teaches the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is based on respecting the faith of non-Muslims, not forcing them to become Muslims, treating them with kindness and justice, talking to one another in a good way, working together to improve life for everybody in the community and not prejudging the fate of others.

“Unfortunately, many people are not aware of this,” Foad said.