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With bin Laden's death, New York Muslims feel sense of 'relief'

Imam Omar Abunamous

Imam Omar Abunamous Credit: Caleb Ferguson

For many of New York’s Muslims, the killing of Osama bin Laden brought a special kind of relief: The terrorist who was long a “burden” to them and had besmirched their faith was no more.

Omar Abunamous, the imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, said the actions of bin Laden and his al-Qaida network provided “a disservice to Islam,” because they falsely sought legitimacy by twisting Islamic beliefs.

“They caused Islam to be described as violent, as terrorists. They caused Islam to be stigmatized,” Abunamous said after a 1 p.m. prayer service Monday. “We want to get rid of that stigma – that smear on Islam.”

Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' New York chapter, noted that al-Qaida killed Muslims on 9/11 and killed Muslims across the world.

"Like all Americans, American Muslims are relieved that bin Laden as a military threat, and more importantly as a symbolic threat, is eliminated," McGoldrick said.

Bin Laden was "an enemy of America, an enemy of peace and an enemy of Islam,” McGoldrick added.

Muslims around New York said they hope that the negative impression of their religion will start to dissipate with bin Laden’s death.

“This is awesome news! Osama has been the gloomiest cloud for Muslims,” said Jamil Azam, 50, of Midwood, a doorman in midtown. “The burden we had is lifted.”

Ali Essa, 23, an Egyptian who is now living in Queens, said bin Laden was promoting a bad image for Muslims.

“He said what he was doing belonged to Islam, and it didn’t. Islam is a peaceful religion,” said Essa, who works in a convenience store in the Little Egypt section of Astoria. “If we show that we are also happy [that bin Laden is dead], people will see that.”

(With Sheila Anne Feeney and Emily Ngo)

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