Nigerian-American Muslims held convention during attack attempt
By Niraj Warikoo
Free Press Staff Writer
Hundreds of Nigerian-American Muslims from across the U.S. — including some from metro Detroit — had gathered this weekend in Boston, Massachusetts for their annual gathering. It’s considered the biggest meeting of Nigerian Muslims in the U.S.
But in the middle of five-day convention came breaking news — a Nigerian Muslim man attempted a terrorist attack on a Northwest plane descending into Detroit.
The participants were horrified and scrambled to put out a press release strongly condemning the incident, said leaders of the 9th annual national convention of the National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations, which ended today.
“It was hard news to take,” Muyideen Ibiyemi, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Council, told the Free Press today. “It took us aback.”
But Ibiyemi, of Providence, Rhode Island, said the incident has only made him and other Nigerian-American Muslims more committed to spreading the true of Islam, which he said was about peace and harmony. The focus of the convention this year was about maintaining Islamic traditions among Nigerian Muslims.
“There is no room in the Quran for this type of thing,” Ibiyemi said of the attempted terrorist attack by a 23-year-old Nigerian man who is Muslim. “There is no room in Islam for killing innocent people.”
About 700 attended the annual convention from 20 states across the U.S., including Michigan, Illinois, New York, Texas among others, Ibiyemi said.
Nigerian-Americans make a substantial part of the growing west African immigrant population in the U.S., which has greatly increased over the past 20 years, according to U.S. Census figures.
Ibiyemi said there is some concern about profiling in light of the Dec. 25 incident and today’s case involving a second Nigerian man on a separate flight that some thought was about terrorism. It turns out the second Nigerian man was just ill.
But Ibiyemi said that in the end, he believes in the American justice system and that innocent people won’t be wrongly accused.
“If you have nothing to hide, as long as you do what is right…the truth will come out,” he said. “We have to be patient.”
Meanwhile, Ibiyemi said that he and others in his community will continue to preach the correct message of Islam.
“There is no extremism in this religion,” he said. “The Prophet, peace be upon him,” was not an extremist.
“The tenets of Islam are to respect the laws of the country,” Ibiyemi added. “We want to let the world know we won’t associate” with terrorism.
Dawud Walid, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said today that “we’re concerned about any security threats.”
But he said he’s also concerned about profiling of innocent people based on ethnicity and religion, citing today’s case in Detroit and a reported case in Arizona where men speaking Arabic were pulled off a plane.
“There may be a climate of fear and hysteria” that could result in the profiling of ethnic minorities, he said. There is an “increased anxiety about people’s perceived ethnicities,” Walid said.
Imam Kazeem Agboola, a Nigerian-American Muslim who heads the Muslim Community Center-Detroit, said that “some will call us names, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” His congregation is predominantly Nigerian.
“We’ll be fine,” he added. “We’ll be fine.”
CAIR: Plane Incidents in Ariz., Mich. Raise Profiling Concerns
Passenger removals may be related to Christmas Day attempted bombing
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/27/2009) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on airline passengers, crews and security personnel to avoid ethnic and religious “profiling” in the wake of the attempted bombing of a flight arriving in Detroit on Christmas Day.
CAIR made that call following two incidents in which innocent passengers were targeted based either on their national origin or on otherwise ordinary behavior.
In Arizona, two “Middle Eastern” men were removed from a US Airways flight in Phoenix and questioned by the FBI after another passenger overheard the men speaking in a foreign language. The men were questioned and released.
SEE: ‘Middle Eastern’ Passengers Removed from Plane in Phoenix
In Michigan, police removed a Nigerian passenger from a flight after he became ill and spent what others considered too much time in the aircraft’s bathroom.
SEE: Detroit-Bound Airline Passenger Was Ill, Not a Threat
“While everyone supports robust airline security measures, racial and religious profiling are in fact counterproductive and can lead to a climate of insecurity and fear,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
– END –
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: email@example.com