Local Muslims address the 'ISIS Crisis'

Feb 25, 2015

The terror group known as ISIS calls itself the Islamic state. But many western New York Muslims have denounced the organization and the brutality committed in the name of Islam. WBFO News  contributor Rich Kellman has details.

"It really is a turning point," said Dr. Khalid Qazi. 

A little more than five years ago Buffalo Muslim spokesman Dr. Khalid Qazi told me this: “There is this culture of death in certain youth that has to be replaced with an ideology of life," said Qazi.  

Understanding Islam conference on February 7th, 2015 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Rich Kellman

That was in 2009. Today that culture of death has crystallized as a name as a brand. ISIS has been killing men, women and children in the middle east for four years now. It claims to be killing for Islam.             

"But then you ask, you say, who are you actually killing?", said Haris Tarin, Director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

"Over 95 percent of the victims of ISIS terrorism, al-Qaeda terrorism, are Muslims themselves." said Tarin.

Dr. Tarin was a featured speaker this month at the understanding Islam series at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo. 

"ISIS does not speak for Islam. "Isis speaks for a death cult, a perversion. It speaks for beheadings, for buntings. Muslims speak for Islam," stated Dr. Tarin.

But that can be a problem.

“There is no ordained ministry. There is no Pope," said Qazi.  

Dr. Khalid Qazi.
Credit WBFO News photo by Rich Kellman

No central authority in a global community that numbers 1.5 billion. 

"When extremists do not allow anybody else to interpret in any other way as the fundamentalists might do, it obviously is not good and that’s part of the problem right now," said Qazi.

It is a problem for Dr. Fuad Sherif of Amherst.

"What do you feel when you see the barbarity displayed by ISIS?", asked Kellman.

"It’s very painful, it’s painful as a human being, it’s painful more because I’m a Muslim, I belong to the same religion, that is what is painful to me, to see what that barbaric thing what is taking place in the world," said Fuad Sherif.

“The recruiting is taking place online," said Dr. Tarin. 

Online and on social media, it is frightening to parents, especially.

“What has to happen is parents have to have conversations with their children. the mosques have to be willing to talk to the parents. We have conversations with teenagers about gang violence, and about sexuality and things of that sort, we have to make sure we’re talking to young people about not dope peddlers, but ideological peddlers," noted Tarin,

It is an ideology, experts say, rooted in the eighth century, before enlightenment, before modern science, when violence was a way of life.

"All of our young people are at risk," said Pastor Tom Yorty, whose Westminster church has been engaged in dialog with Buffalo’s Muslim community for 14 years.

"The extent to which we are fragmented and don’t have those bridges for mutual understanding and dialog, makes, I think Muslims in this country feel more isolated, and therefore young people feel more isolated," said Pastor Yort. 

In the past month, American aid worker Kayla Mueller died at the hands of Isis and three young Muslim-American students were killed by a neighbor in North Carolina. All of them young, all of them idealistic, working for a better world.

“Those ideals and goals transcend our differences, and it’s poignant and it’s tragic," stated Pastor Yort.

"It is an absolute shame that we lose such decent human beings, their approach to life, their approach to their family, their approach to their community, their everyday life that is so positive, so productive, and that we’ll miss for the rest of their lives," said Qazi.