Many Kansas City Muslims Scared, Hurting In Wake Of Terrorist Attacks

Dec 4, 2015

Members of the Islamic Center of Johnson County called police Friday afternoon after an unknown man wearing a Marine jacket planted himself on the sidewalk next to the entrance of their mosque as dozens of members streamed in for prayers, a center spokesman said.  

"When I approached him he said something to the effect 'we don't want you here,'" according to Arif Ahmad, Secretary of the center. Police talked the man and he left.

"Police later tell me he was protesting," Ahamd said.

But for the mosque's worshipers, it was just one more thing to worry about.

Following the Paris attacks,  Muslim students as well as leaders in the community were targeted by hate messages on social media implying they're linked to terrorism. 

"Our women are afraid to go out of the house," said Ahmad. "Our kids are getting questions in their schools."

In the wake of the Paris shooting and this week's massacre in San Bernadino, California, local members of the Muslim community increasingly find themselves in the emotional cross-hairs of deadly violence reportedly in the name of radical Islam.

On Wednesday, Tashfeen Malik, 27, and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, massacred 14 people in a shootout at the Inland Regional Center  in San Bernadino, California.

The FBI said Friday it is investigating the crime as an act of terrorism.  Malik, who is from Pakistan and spent two decades in Saudi Arabia, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State on Facebook the day of the shooting, the FBI said in a news conference Friday.

On Nov. 13th, terrorists killed more than 120 Parisians in a wave of simultaneous shootings in a night club, street cafes and a soccer stadium.

“We are saddened and hurting by this senseless loss of lives, like all Americans,” said Ahmad. "But our community is really scared now."

Jabir Hazziez with the Al-Inshirah Islamic Center on Troost Avenue in Kansas City. Mo. said the center has doubled down on efforts to condemn violence of any kind.  He says all services now emphasize that any suggestion or evidence of criminal activity or violence will be put down immediately. 

"We work very closely with local authorities," Hazziez said. "We have members who are not only part of the fabric of Kansas City and American society, but also are members of law enforcement, the military and local business."

Mustafa Hussein of the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City in Southeast Kansas City, said in an email Friday morning ,“we are not (organizing) a local response and I am not getting any (negative) feedback.” 

Also on a positive note, Ahmad of the Johnson County Islamic Center said members were heartened by the action of one pastor on Friday. 

Pastor Bob Lehleitner, Quivera Campus Site Pastor for the Colonial Presbyterian Church spontaneously came to the center Friday to support for the Muslim community. Ahamd says Lehleitner spoke to the entire congregation, which packs the mosque during Friday prayers. 

The pastor's visit, he said, helped his community stand by their conviction in spite of their fear.

"Our message is still the same," Arif said in an email Friday night. "We stand firmly with Americans in (condemning) such acts ... and the murderous ideology that supports (them.)"