NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As Muslims gathered in prayer to condemn the San Bernardino mass shooting, the imam of a Long Island mosque is suggesting more drastic steps to root out extremists.
“We can no longer sit back and say, ‘I condemn this thing,'” Imam Isa Abdul Kareem of the Ta-Ha Masjid mosque in Roosevelt told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. “It is just not enough anymore. We have to make another step beyond that now and begin to become activists within our own community.”
Kareem’s first order of business is to engage private detectives to investigate any members who exhibit troubling behavior.
Some youths CBS2 spoke with agree, saying it is unconscionable to see vulnerable Muslims their age disconnect, turn their backs on their peaceful religion and get swept up in a violent movement.
“If you don’t know the Prophet Muhammad … then you don’t know what Islam is,” said Noor Eltahway, a Port Washington Muslim. “He’s like a really good person. He helps people, and that’s what we are supposed to do. We’re not supposed to be killing innocent people.”
Leaders of one of the area’s oldest and largest mosques, the Islamic Center of Long Island, do not support bringing in private investigators. It chooses to build trust with police and wants parents to set examples of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance. Its doors are open for youth basketball and after-school camps.
“The best part of America is you don’t have to lose your identity. You don’t have to lose your ethnic values,” said Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center. “You become a part, retaining your own values, a part of the American society, American fabric.”
That advice is already working for Amir Kareem. He has Jewish and Christian classmates. His best friend is a Jehovah’s witness.
“He has his religion; I have mine. But we still click because we’re both human,” he said.
Imam Kareem said he does not think America can solve potential problems without Muslim leadership.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio made his first visit to the Jamaica Muslim Center, the section of Queens boasts the largest Muslim community in the city.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the Muslim community there has been fighting a backlash against their religion.
“They should be judged on the basis of their actions, and not the faith of all of us. In my eyes they’re not even Muslims,” Robina Niaz said.
Niaz came to the center to see de Blasio speak, in hopes that he could help erase the stigma against her faith. She said she has already heard from young people in the community being harassed.
“People are being treated badly. Someone has been harassed on the subway. I worry about those young people,” Niaz said.
Yasin Ehsan, 16, is a junior at Brooklyn Tech and a leader in his Muslim Student Association. He said he’s working to spread the good word about his religion.
“It’s up to us to set the right image, up to us to set the foundation and Muslims in general are peace loving,” he said.
Mayor de Blasio urged Muslim leaders to work with police to report hate crimes if they happen, everyone present called for people to work together to create an inclusive society.
Leaders told CBS2 they are working to ban propaganda videos aimed at Muslim American youth.