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LI Muslims, religious leaders gather at Westbury mosque, denounce Paris terror attacks

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In light of recent terrorist attacks, Muslim leaders and clergy of other faiths gathered at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury on Nov. 20, 2015, to ask for understanding that Islam does not support the Islamic State nor that extremist group?s violent beliefs. ( Newsday / Chris Ware)

Muslims and leaders of other faiths gathered Friday at the largest mosque on Long Island to denounce the terrorist attacks in Paris and stress that the extremists' actions were the antithesis of Islamic teaching, which preaches peace.

"This is a small group . . . of criminals who in the name of Islam have done barbaric acts," Isma Chaudhry, a doctor of internal medicine who is president of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, told a news conference.

"We as Muslims strongly condemn these un-Islamic actions," she said. "This is not Islam. ISIS is not Islam."

Earlier, in an interview, Chaudhry called ISIS "violent psychopaths."

Other speakers included leaders of the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faiths, who also said the vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding, faith-filled people. The event included weekly Friday prayers -- the main prayer day of the week for Muslims. Several hundred people attended.

ISIS killed 130 people in Paris in attacks Nov. 13 that targeted a concert hall, cafes and a soccer stadium.

Some members of the mosque stood at the news conference with signs reading, "ISIS Does Not Represent Islam" and "Not in the Name of Islam."

One of them, Misha Khan, 21, of East Meadow, urged the public not to blame Muslims for the attacks.

"We didn't blame the Germans for Hitler. We didn't blame the Christians for the KKK. So it's wrong to blame the Muslims for ISIS," said Khan, a student at Long Island University in Brooklyn.

Owais Iqbal, 31, of Glen Head, another member of the mosque, said he studied at a Catholic high school, St. Mary's in Manhasset. "It's just astonishing how something so ridiculous like that could happen," he said. "I'm as shocked as anyone else."

He said Islam and Christianity stress many of the same themes, such as morality and doing good.

Some speakers urged the public -- and Congress -- to accept into the United States refugees fleeing ISIS-related violence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

"Let us show these disciples of death, these murdering ISIS thugs, how a truly great nation and her people behave in the case of terrorism," said the Rev. Mark Lukens, head of the Long Island Interfaith Alliance. "Islam is not the enemy. Fear is our enemy. Hatred is our enemy."

Faroque Khan, a physician who is a founder of the mosque, said rejecting the refugees would play "into the strategy of ISIS, which is trying to create a religious divide and an anti-refugee backlash, so the billion-plus Muslims will feel alienated and some may turn to extremism."

He added: "Xenophobia is not what American values are all about."

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