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Published: Tuesday, 7/26/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Local Muslims on high alert

Attacks in Norway prompt warning from national Islamic group

Dr. Mahjabeen Islam. Dr. Mahjabeen Islam.

Although no threats have been made against Toledo-area mosques following the killings in Norway, local Muslims are on high alert at the urging of a national Islamic advocacy group.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations advised U.S. mosques Monday to "step up security following attacks by an anti-Muslim, right-wing terrorist in Norway that left more than 70 people dead."

Nihad Awad, the council's executive director, said in a statement that the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, had written a 1,500-page manifesto "designed to inspire similar attacks" and that the suspect claimed "there are others who share his beliefs ready to strike."

Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, vice president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, said the Perrysburg mosque is taking the advisory seriously.

"We have not received any threats, but we will stay on high alert because after any event like this there are copycat crimes," she said.

Spokesmen for Masjid Saad in Sylvania and the Toledo Muslim Community Center said they would take precautions, although no major new security efforts are planned.

Dr. Abbas Khalil of the Muslim community center, which moved into the former J. Jeffrey Fretti Funeral Home on West Sylvania Avenue in January, said members planned to discuss security concerns when they gathered for prayer last night.

RELATED STORY: Norway police to start naming dead from terror attacks; justice ministry employees missing

Dr. Abbas Khalil. Dr. Abbas Khalil.
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Several local Muslim leaders said Mr. Breivik's bombing in Oslo and his mass shootings at a nearby camp seemed to be the work of a madman, with no basis in religious beliefs.

"This guy killed Christian people -- his own people," Ziad Hummos of Masjid Saad said. "If you hate Muslims, why kill Christians? It's bizarre. All faiths, all human beings should stand together against these heinous crimes. We pray for the people of Norway, for the wounded people to recover, and for the families of the victims. We give all our condolences."

Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for the United Muslim Association of Toledo, said that he "would certainly heed CAIR's request to increase security, but we in northwest Ohio are very, very blessed because of our neighbors. They keep a very special eye on our institutions, as if they were their own."

He said Mr. Breivik's rampage is a reflection of hatred and not religious beliefs.

"This is what hate groups do: They attack innocent people for no reason," Dr. Hasan said. "We strictly condemn these attacks. … What is sad is that the man had no sympathy for his own people. If this was his views, it was hardly the way to manifest them."

Dr. Islam called it "inherently incorrect" to call Mr. Breivik a "Christian fundamentalist," as some in the media have labeled him.

"If people of any religious group get caught up in dogma, and get lost in it, they are prone to violence because the Bible and the Qur'an can be misinterpreted and taken completely out of context to promote violence," she said. "I think this person is psychiatrically very disturbed. I think it's more a matter of a psychiatric disorder than a religion or dogma or anything else."

That Mr. Breivik set off a car bomb outside the office of Norway's prime minister and then massacred children at a youth camp is proof enough of insanity, Dr. Islam said.

"He didn't attack a Muslim place of worship. He didn't kill Muslims," she said. "He attacked his own prime minister's office and then opened fire on young, helpless kids. It's so heartbreaking. To take the shield under the cover of Christianity or Islam -- such people really are loonies."

Dr. Islam said the Islamic Center in Perrysburg will be more security-minded than usual, especially with the holy month of Ramadan beginning Monday.

"We will be at the mosque for prayer every night, so that raises the security risk a little bit," she said. But at the same time, she added, "You can't live in fear."

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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