The imam at a Roosevelt mosque said Thursday that American Muslims must go beyond condemning terrorism and begin to take stronger action to help root out extremists in their communities.
Imam Isa Abdul Kareem of the Ta-Ha Masjid mosque suggested that Muslim communities start hiring private detectives to investigate any members who exhibit troubling behavior. That may be needed because some people are hesitant to go to police or the FBI, he said.
“The majority of Americans understand that Muslims for the most part are peace-loving people,” Kareem said in an interview at the mosque. “I think Americans are looking for more from the Muslim community.
“It’s just not enough anymore to say that we condemn it,” he said. “We have to do more. We have to become active members of the war against terrorism.”
Kareem said he felt compelled to speak after at least 14 people were killed and 21 wounded in Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Investigators have said it is not clear if the two armed suspects killed by police — a married couple — had any contact with Islamic extremism. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
It would not be the imam’s first foray into fighting community problems internally. In the late 1980s, he organized private patrols in crime-ridden housing projects in Hempstead to drive out drug dealers.
His proposal to bring in private detectives to help root out possible extremists in the Muslim community got mixed reactions from other local Muslim leaders.
Habeeb Ahmed, president-elect of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, said his mosque already is carrying out programs to ensure young people do not get caught up in extremism.
“We always look at people, at what is happening,” said Ahmed, whose mosque is one of the oldest and largest on Long Island. “We make sure we know what they are doing.”
The mosque runs programs such as a basketball league for young people to keep them involved in wholesome activities, he said. He added that he does not think private detectives are necessary because the mosque has a good relationship with Nassau County police.
“The police commissioner has been very cooperative,” Ahmed said. On Long Island, he added, “I think things are OK.”
Nayyar Imam, a Muslim leader in Suffolk, called the detective proposal “impractical” and said people were again incorrectly linking Islam and terrorism.
“There are bad people in every community,” he said. “The terrorism doesn’t have any religion.”
Kareem said he had not presented his proposal to local Muslim leaders, but plans to do so.
“I think Muslims are going to have to take a look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we are in a state of denial,” he said. “I don’t think America can solve this problem without the Muslims, particularly the Muslim leadership.”