At Friday’s Jumah – the main weekly Muslim service – Imam M.A. Azeez told his 1,000 congregants at the Salam Islamic Center in Sacramento that “everything that ISIS stands for is the antithesis of Islamic teaching.”
“It seems that those thugs who have attached themselves to Islam are doing the exact opposite of everything Muslims are supposed to be doing in the months leading up to the hajj pilgrimage,” Azeez added.
Other Sacramento-area imams also have used Friday prayers recently to denounce the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker by the Islamic State, said Irfan Haq, president of the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations, an umbrella agency of 16 mosques.
Islamic State – also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – is a jihadist group seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq. It has seized broad swaths of land in both countries, terrorized residents and kidnapped foreigners.
Haq said local Muslim leaders are relieved that there has been no noticeable backlash against members of their community because of Islamic State’s brutal campaign. It “is neither Islamic or Muslim in any sense,” Haq said. “It is contradicting and violating all the teachings of the Abrahamic faiths, not just Islam but Christianity and Judaism ... They slaughter anyone who opposes them, regardless of faith.”
The Sacramento region has a diverse, well-established Muslim population. The most recent survey from the Pew Research Center found about 1.7 percent of Americans identify as Muslim. Haq estimates the number of Muslims in the region at about 70,000.
The Islamic State has been condemned by Muslim scholars worldwide, Haq noted. “We are shocked, angry, horrified beyond words – my faith is being hijacked by a criminal group.”
Basim Elkarra. executive director of the Sacramento Valley office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights organization that has condemned the Islamic State, said the group’s phones have lit up since videos of beheadings were released. “Ninety percent of the folks are willing to listen to us and learn that true Islam has nothing to do with ISIS,” he said.