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LI Muslim residents condemn California massacre, defend Islam

Imam Mohammad Usman, of Elmont, joined other Muslim

Imam Mohammad Usman, of Elmont, joined other Muslim residents of Long Island in speaking out against the Dec. 2 shootings in San Bernardino, California, and what they say is a wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric that has followed it. The group held a news conference Dec. 9, 2015, in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A small group of Long Island Muslims on Wednesday condemned the Dec. 2 shootings in San Bernardino, California, as hateful acts that do not represent Islam and cautioned against “branding the entire community” as suspect.

At a news conference outside State Supreme Court in Mineola, Ijaz Bokhari, a Northport resident, said extremists behind such attacks are enemies of his community.

“What’s the thinking behind these guys? . . . How can they go and kill innocent people and sleep at night?” Bokhari asked. “They want to commit such heinous crimes . . . ” to provoke “a hateful reaction to it” so they can recruit more members, he said.

Fourteen people were killed and 21 more were wounded in the massacre at a holiday office party at the Inland Regional Center, carried out by Syed Farook, a San Bernardino county employee, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik. The two, who were killed in a gunbattle with police, had amassed ammunition and pipe bombs in their home.

FBI Director James Comey told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday that the two were separately radicalized and became dedicated to jihad as early as the end of 2013, before they started dating online.

At the Mineola news conference, the Long Island residents said they came together as concerned citizens to denounce the violence and defend their faith. They announced events over the next few weeks in New York City and on Long Island to push a message of Muslim-American solidarity.

They also criticized Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, presidential candidates seeking the Republican Party nomination, for comments that the Long Islanders said cast Muslims in a bad light.

“It is very strange that people who want to be commander-in-chief of this great nation, people who are running for president, say things which are not only unfair, untrue, but also so hateful,” said Ali A. Mirza, a Pakistani-American who is an Elmont business owner and who issued the advisory to media about the news conference.

Mohammad Usman, imam of the Jamia Zia-ul-Quran mosque in Elmont, recited verses from the Quran in Arabic and in English to say that in his faith “whoever killed an innocent person is exactly like he killed the whole humanity.”

He called on others to join them at three upcoming events “to show that Islam is a peaceful religion.”

They are a rally at 2 p.m. Saturday in Times Square; an interfaith gathering Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. in Jackson Heights, Queens, at 74th Street and 37th Avenue; and a rally on Jan. 2 at 1 p.m., starting at the Elmont Public Library, 700 Hempstead Tpke. in Elmont.

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