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Maulana Shafayat Mohamed & Dar Ul Uloom

Call for holy war condemned by Florida Muslim cleric

By James D. Davis Religion Editor, The Sun-Sentinel, October 13 2001

Osama bin Laden and his call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States were denounced in a scathing address on Friday by the leader of one of Florida's largest mosques.

"There are some who tarnish Islam, who do terror in the name of Islam," said Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, head of Darul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines. "They confuse jihad with their own problems. We must educate them about Islam, so they will not corrupt it."

He added that his fellow American Muslim leaders must not only denounce terrorism, they should rein in and weed out their more radical followers.

Mohamed gave his views during a sermon for jumah, or Friday prayer, at the cavernous storefront mosque. More than 700 worshipers of varying backgrounds -- African, Indonesian, Caribbean and Pakistani, as well as Middle Eastern -- listened, sitting on the striped green and gold carpet and spilling out into the lobby.

The ameer, garbed in a white turban and flowing cream-colored robes, called radicals ignorant of Islamic teaching and in need of instruction.

"Many people understand little about Islam, and it's our job to educate ourselves, so we can educate them.

"If we do not, we will raise our hands to pray, and God will not listen to us," Mohamed said, his gesturing hand shaking his wooden minbar, or pulpit. "We will ask for help, and he will not."

In his wide-ranging sermon, he ridiculed bin Laden and his deputies in the al-Qaida organization for promising rewards in paradise for suicide bombings, while they themselves hide in caves.

The ameer also criticized those who condone terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. He pointed out that the bombing of U.S. embassies killed innocent people as well as supposed combatants.

He named major organizations, including the Islamic Circle of North America and the Islamic Society of North America, plus area Islamic centers, as groups that should prevent radicals from rising to positions of influence. He said his own mosque carefully screens guest speakers.

"We do not allow politicians and radicals to represent us, " Mohamed said. "That's why Darul Uloom is the largest mosque in South Florida."

He said Muslims should accept their shortcomings and admit, for instance, that believers sometimes kill one another. As one example, he mentioned the longtime civil war in Afghanistan between the ruling Taliban party and the Northern Alliance, a rebel army of fellow Muslims.

For those who complain of Jewish and Christian influence in the United States, Mohamed said Muslims could simply run for office and build their own TV networks. "Many Muslims tell me of their money, their businesses. Well, they should put their money where their mouth is."

He criticized Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who on Thursday offered New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani $10 million for the recovery effort, then said America should re-examine its Mideastern policies. No connection should have been made between relief and politics, Mohamed said.

He hinted at a backlash among other Americans if Muslims don't counter and tone down the radicals among them.

"It is sad that minorities among us allow emotion to overpower their understanding, and to say or do things they should not," Mohamed said. "But when the ship sinks, we all sink, the educated and the ignorant people."

Mohamed said his views had prompted some Muslims to call him an infidel and that American Taliban sympathizers even sometimes threaten him. Some months ago, he said, a man whom he did not identify told him, "Your blood is halal" -- meaning that it would be permissible to kill him.

"I don't support the pack," said Mohamed, who was raised in Trinidad and educated in India. "I don't have the cultural upbringing that keeps me from seeing the truth."

"A lot of Muslims are ignorant and join small radical groups," said Naim Mohammed, an upholsterer who lives in Sunrise. "But if every Muslim read the Quran directly, he wouldn't become a terrorist."

Shuaib Abdoel, a North Lauderdale resident who works for a film producer, added his own denunciations of bin Laden: "He calls himself a leader, but the blood of innocent lives has been shed in his name. I think he should just surrender."

The ameer was less direct on what do to about the Arab-Israeli conflict, simply saying that Muslims and Jews there should sit down and talk.

"Jews and Muslims come to America, work in the same business, live in the same apartment building and the same neighborhood," he said. "Why can't they live together in the Holy Land?"

James D. Davis can be reached at jdavis@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4730.

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