Nayyar Imam, leader of the Islamic Association of Long Island, is angry. “We are really angry — this is the last thing that we need to happen to us.” What has angered him is that Bryant Neal “Ibrahim” Vinas, a convert to Islam and member of his mosque, has been charged with involvement in an attack on an American military base in Afghanistan and providing information about the New York City subway system to Al-Qaeda operatives.
Said Imam: “We definitely condemn this kind of action and if anyone in the mosque knew about this they would have been the first one to report it to the authorities.” He complained that “one bad apple is bringing a negative image to the whole community.” Muslims, Imam continued, “are Americans too and they are concerned about American security and American safety just as much as everyone else. We don’t want one bad apple to paint a false picture of the thousands and thousands of Muslims who live on Long Island.” According to Long Island’s Times Beacon Record Media, “the religious leader said Islamist extremism is universally frowned upon at the Selden mosque. ‘If it comes up in a discussion, it always comes in the negative sense.’” Said Vinas, “I keep an eye like a hawk on this place.”
From Imam’s account, one would get the impression that Vinas picked up his jihadist ideas on his own, and in opposition to the current of thinking that prevailed at his own mosque. This gibes with the assessment of an unnamed intelligence official quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “From what we can tell,” he explained, “the contacts he made were his own. He was self-recruited; he was yearning to become a Muslim jihad fighter. He made his own path.”
But why was “yearning to become a Muslim jihad fighter” in the first place, especially since, by Imam’s account, his mosque discouraged this sort of thing? The Los Angeles Times reported that “a former FBI counter-terrorism official said suspected extremists had been identified at the mosque.”
That raises the question of what exactly Nayyar Imam teaches against when he says that he speaks out against “extremism,” and what he considers to be “extremism” in general. For Islamic jihadists from Indonesia to Nigeria, as well as in Europe and North America, consistently point to elements of Islamic belief as the motivation and justification for their actions. Does Imam teach directly against their understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah? In March 2009, five Muslims accused of helping plot the 9/11 attacks wrote an “Islamic Response to the Government’s Nine Accusations.” In it they quote the Qur’an to justify their jihad war against American Infidels. Osama bin Laden’s communiqués have also quoted the Qur’an copiously. In his 1996 “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” he quotes seven Koran verses, including the notorious “Verse of the Sword”: “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (9:5).
Does Nayyar Imam explain to Muslims on Long Island why the usage of the Qur’an by these jihadists is incorrect?
In January 2006, a gang of Muslims in Paris kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew. During Halimi’s ordeal, his captors called his family, demanding half a million euros in ransom money and reciting Qur’an verses. And on March 3, 2006, twenty-two-year-old student Mohammed Taheri-azar drove an SUV into a crowd on the Carolina campus, injuring nine. Taheri-azar later declared: “I live with the holy Koran as my constitution for right and wrong and definition of justice....Allah gives permission in the Koran for the followers of Allah to attack those who have raged [sic] war against them…” Later he sent a detailed exposition of the Qur’an’s teachings on warfare to the Carolina campus newspaper.
Does Nayyar Imam teach the Muslims in his spiritual care how such exegeses of the Qur’an are wrong and to be condemned? This question has gone unasked by the mainstream media. Yet it is the key question: what are self-proclaimed Muslim moderates doing to teach against Qur’anic literalism, the jihad doctrine, and Islamic supremacism in their own communities? The answers should be forthcoming, and they should be specific and detailed. Otherwise, Nayyar Imam should keep his condemnation of the actions of Bryant “Ibrahim” Vinas on file, for there will be many more Muslims in America like him.