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Muslim leaders: Media should stop enabling ISIS

PHOTO courtesy The Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
Ahmed Bedier, president of United Voices for America, center, urges the Muslim community to discourage their youth from joining the Islamic State group. Masjid Muhammad Assistant Imam Ben Abdul-Haqq, left, Secretary General for the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations Oussama Jamal and Fiqh Council of North America Chairman Muzzammil H. Siddiqi, right, look on.

WASHINGTON – Media have been advised by a group of American Muslim leaders to refrain from referring to the Islamic State group as ISIS or jihadists since doing so gives them legitimacy. This occurred as Muslim leaders and scholars came together to denounce the Islamic State group in a 17-page letter that sets the record straight in as far as the group’s ideology and Islam are concerned.

“If you refer to ISIS as jihadist, you are defeating the purpose and giving them legitimacy,” said Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The press conference Wednesday was organized by CAIR and the Fiqh Council of North America, and it brought together 10 Muslim leaders from various organizations and societies in America.

The leaders ratified the letter, which was originally written in Arabic, addressed to the Islamic State group’s leader Ibrahim Awwad Al-Badri. Over 120 scholars and Muslim leaders from around the world signed it.

“Point by point, their ideology has been rejected,” said Muzammil H. Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America. The council advises its members on religious matters.

The leaders decried the media’s reference of the Islamic State group as Islamic and requested them to work toward setting a new narrative in reporting about ISIS. They echoed a similar call by the Muslim Council of Britain last month.

“It is clear to the Muslims around the world that what this group is doing is un-Islamic,” Ahmed Bedier, president of United Voices for America, said. “What is not clear so far is to the media that they are un-Islamic.”

United Voices for America encourages minorities and people of color to participate in governance issues.

The letter references the Quran extensively to affirm the leaders’ stance on points of contention between them and the Islamic State group. These include the killing of innocents and emissaries, jihad, people of scripture or Christians, Yazidis, the caliphate, attribution of crimes to God and rebelling against leaders.

“You have coerced people to convert to Islam just as you have coerced Muslims to accept your views,” the letter reads. “New caliphate requires consensus from Muslims.”

It further castigates the Islamic State group’s misinterpretation of Islam, terming it “a great wrong and an offense to Islam, Muslims and the entire world.”

“None of their actions has passed any litmus test to prove that they have sound Islamic ideas,” Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, said. “We are educating our community members not to fall prey to such groups.”   

The leaders said military action against the group should not be viewed as a lone solution because it has not worked before.

“There has got to be a military and political solution,” said Robert Marro, a board member of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. “If you can get a political solution, then you eliminate all their base of support.”

The Scripps Howard Foundation Wire refers to the group as the Islamic State group, following guidelines set by the Associated Press.

Rocky Asutsa is a communication student at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya, where he majors in electronic media and minors public relations. He is currently participating in the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Semester in Washington Program. He may be reached at [email protected].

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Muslim leaders: Media should stop enabling ISIS