Police and officials informed about the arrest of a man who allegedly threatened to attack mosques and was found with explosives outside of the largest Islamic center in North America last week had planned to keep it quiet. Then the imam of the threatened mosque weighed in.
Imad Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini informed worshippers about the arrest of Roger Stockham during his sermon on Friday, and a video of his speech was posted to YouTube. That’s when the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) decided to put out a press release over the weekend.
Al-Qazwini’s speech praised the work of law enforcement and the bar owner who called police after Stockham allegedly made threats in a bar. He also said he hoped the media would call Stockham a terrorist.
“We always hear about Muslims being terrorists, we always hear about Muslims attacking innocent person,” Al-Qazwini said. “When America only talks about Muslims being terrorists, they will turn a blind eye on their own terrorists.”
Likewise, Jared Lee Loughner (the alleged mass murderer who attempted to assassinate Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) should also be called a terrorist, Al-Qazwini said.
“Two weeks ago in Arizona, in Arizona state there was a shooting. Who was the victims of the incident — 12 or 13 innocent people,” Al-Qazwini said. “But unfortunately you find the media hesitant to call the guy ‘terrorist.’ What do they say about him? Well the man was insane.”
“This is another terrorist who came to attack peaceful Muslims but… his efforts were in vain,” al-Qazwini said.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of CAIR, told TPM that police officers were keeping the news quiet because they didn’t believe it was a grave concern and there was no ongoing threat. They were also worried that the alleged plot could inspire copycats.
The Islamic Center of America, said Walid, is the largest mosque in North America. It has faced threats in the past. In 2004, two New York men sent threatening e-mails to the mosque. They were both charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 247, which makes it a crime to “intentionally obstruct[ ], by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempt[ ] to do so,” and plead guilty in 2005. The mosque was also vandalized when someone wrote “9/11 Terrorists Go Home” on the side of the building around 2007, Walid said.
Walid said that he thinks that anti-Muslim rhetoric played a role in the incident.
“I believe it is a mixture of the two, between a person being mentally unstable within a society context of a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric floating around. People can be on the edge and when they’re exposed to enough negative information about a group of people… it may be enough to push them over the edge,” Walid said.
“We can’t look into the mind of Jared Loughner, he obviously had some mental problems, but there’s a particular type of rhetoric that was existing that may have contributed to what he did in Tucson,” Walid said.