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Boston Imam Struggles For Islam Image

Published: 12/05/2013 04:18:15 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Facing new challenges to present the true image of Islam after deadly bombings, imam Suhaib Webb, the leader of the largest mosque in Boston, is struggling to offer comfort and advice to Muslim worshippers and promote (more)

CAIRO - Facing new challenges to present the true image of Islam after deadly bombings, imam Suhaib Webb, the leader of the largest mosque in Boston, is struggling to offer comfort and advice to Muslim worshippers and promote religious harmony in the town.

“I'm just exhausted,” Webb told The Boston Globe on Sunday, May 12.“I don't have days anymore. I just have . . . smears.”

Grieving Boston Muslims

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Embracing Islam in the early 1990s, Webb has been working to promote the true teachings of Islam among his congregation.

Aspiring to better fulfil this task, the Boston imam flew to the Middle East to know more about his new faith.

Studying Islam at Azhar University, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, Webb became an advanced legal scholar and one of the most famous imams in the US.

Eighteen months ago, he was appointed as the imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury.

From the first days of his appointment, Webb tried to connect with immigrants from all over the world, as well as their US-born children and converts from other faiths.

He also worked to bridge the city's faith communities, extending hands of friendship to other faith communities, especially among some Jewish leaders.

In a short period after his appointment, Webb became a trusted source for the Muslim community, offering them comfort and advice.

He worked to nurture a new generation of American imams and Muslim women scholars, planning to establish the Ella Collins Institute, one of the first Muslim seminaries in the US named after Malcolm X's older half-sister.

For him, Muslims can live faithful lives in contemporary America, and that they also have an obligation to participate — civically, culturally, and politically.

“It doesn't become this abstract philosophical discussion,” Kamran Ahmed, a 24-year-old medical student, said, pointing out that Webb drew him to the mosque.

“It becomes this discussion of when this thing happened at work, or this thing happened at school, this is how the Prophet, peace be upon him, would have responded.”

Moderate Voices

But last month's bombings in Boston have put Webb's mission into a crucible, giving room for Islamophobes to fuel allegations that mosques are breeding grounds for hatred.

“I don't have any private classes . . . where we meet in some bat cave and we lay out blueprints of how to conquer America,” Webb said.

One of these allegations was expressed by Charles Jacobs in a USA Today article in which he accused mosques of becoming breeding grounds for hatred and extremism in the US.

Webb described Jacobs' allegation as “ridiculous”.

Many observers were also critical of the allegations.

“The problem isn't Suhaib Webb. The problem is there aren't more imams like Suhaib Webb,” Todd Helmus, a senior behavioral scientist with the RAND Corporation who has worked extensively on counterterrorism, said.

For Helmus, Webb's mosque was one of the more active and influential Muslim voices against radicalism in the country.

Diana Eck, a Harvard professor who teaches a case study of the saga of Jacobs and Boston's mosques, agrees.

“For years, they were asking, ‘Where are the moderate Muslim voices?' ” she said of Jacobs and his allies.

“Now, we have a lot of moderate Muslim voices, and they are saying that these are the most dangerous people because they are involved in civic society.”

The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.

US Muslims were among the first to condemn the Boston attacks, without even waiting for the suspects to be identified.

Despite condemnations from the Muslim community, fear-mongering against Muslims led to attacks on innocent Muslims in New York and Massachusetts.

Media and right-wing pundits began inflaming passions against Muslims again, beginning a new round of Islamophobia.

Some, like Republican Representatives Steve King and Louie Gohmert, even used the attacks to call for halting plans to reform immigration policies on claims of fighting terrorism.

They justified their calls that radical Muslims were training in Mexico to learn how to do “Hispanic things” and sneak across the border and kill Americans.Another Republican Peter King has also called for putting the whole Muslim community under surveillance.

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