Any time a militant organization rises with violent acts in the name of Islam, some Muslim leaders grow vocal in denouncing radicalization as they distance their faith from terrorism. Often times, some of these religious leaders seem to condemn certain actions or groups because the society expects them to do so — or because they’re concerned that critics might put them in the spotlight for their silence.
But Sheikh Jamel Ben Ameur, an Islamic scholar and imam of Masjid Al-Tawba Islamic Cultural Community Center in Eden Prairie, has refused to denounce the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for one reason, he says: because the news reports about the Islamic State are “confusing” and “complicated.”
Ben Ameur has called on his Muslim counterparts to be careful about their comments regarding the group amid developing revelations that several Twin Cities Muslims have been recruited to join the Islamic State, which is also often referred to as ISIS or ISIL. In the most recent instance, two Minnesota men — Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, and Abdi Nur, 20 — were charged this week with conspiring to support the terrorist organization.
When he spoke to a crowd of about 100 Muslims at Masjid Al-Tawba earlier this fall, Ben Ameur said many people in the Muslim community ask Islamic scholars to condemn the group. And Ben Ameur has a message for those seeking his view on the ISIS issue: “We don’t need to accuse people of something we don’t know about. We don’t have to jump into judgment.”
In June, the Islamic State declared an Islamic caliphate, and designated Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as the caliph and “leader of Muslims everywhere.” Since then, ISIS has remained under a global microscope that has magnified its violent actions, which have including crucifixions and beheadings, most notably of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Despite international media reports of the murder of these men — which U.S. and British officials as well as family members have confirmed — Ben Ameur has expressed skepticism about the authenticity of the videos and news reports. “We don’t know if [ISIS] did it or not,” he said. “This is confusing; we don’t know the news that’s coming to us. [Therefore], we don’t want to name names.”
Violence in the region is ‘not Islam’
When it comes to the acts of violence that the Islamic State has reportedly perpetuated in Iraq and Syria, however, Ben Ameur has been quick to say that those actions are un-Islamic, a remark that President Obama echoed during a September speech on ISIS. “Those actions are not Islam,” Ben Ameur said. “To empower Islam doesn’t mean to kill people and to takeover [territories].”…
It remains an unanswered question as to why there are so many misunderstanders of Islam on this point, going back to the legends of Muhammad himself.