NE Florida Muslims feeling discrimination


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – "We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam," President Barak Obama said during his Oval Office address Sunday night.

While the president vowed to defeat ISIS, he didn't announce any changes in policy and said it is the responsibility of Americans to reject discrimination.

Muslims in Northeast Florida said they were already feeling that discrimination.

A spokesman for the Islamic community told News4Jax that they agree with Obama's remarks and they don't want people to associate ISIS with the Muslim faith.

"I can understand where people are making the connection because the terrorists are committing these actions in the name of Islam," said University of North Florida professor Parvez Ahmed. "Undoubtedly, the terrorists are drawing a negative attention to the faith because they're committing these things in the name of the faith."

Ahmed is an activist in the Islamic community. He said most Muslim leaders condemn the acts of ISIS and he agrees there should be improvements in the background check process for people trying to get into America to help prevent more attacks.

"If there are ways to improve the vetting, we are certainly for that process. But at the same time, if it unduly singles out people on the basis of their faith, their national origin, then that would be an un-American intrusion," Ahmed said.

Ahmed said Muslims have been under scrutiny because of the actions of radical groups ever since Sept. 11, 2001.

The mosque at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida was bombed by a local man in 2010. The pipe bomb damaged the building, but no one inside or injured during the attack. The bomber was caught almost a year later in Oklahoma and was killed in a shootout with police.

Ahmed says many people don't realize ISIS is also targeting Muslims.

"ISIS has killed more Muslims than any other people of faith, and we also have to remember that the vast majority of attacks on our homeland have been committed by white single men," Ahmed said. "So to profile Muslims because of some radical or some crazy criminal doing something egregious is just misguided ... It is unfair, but it is also the reality that the community has to deal with."

Ahmed says the Muslim community is continuing the conversation about their faith so people can understand that they are not the enemy.

"What ISIS is trying to do, it is trying to divide Muslims from the rest of the world. It is trying to propagate this idea that there is a clash of civilization between Islam and the rest of the world. What we have to do is resist that ideology. We have to not only speak out but show in our actions that we are not doing anything to give any credence to that ideology."