IRVING – Assigned as a target for ISIS, a leading Muslim imam and interfaith leader in Irving, Texas, stressed that he is not afraid of ISIS threats, adding that Islamophobia and hate crimes targeting Muslims are more intimidating.
“I can tell you with a completely straight face that I’m not intimidated at all. I don’t think we can be intimidated,” Omar Suleiman, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, told WFAA on Tuesday, March 14.
“We can’t afford to be afraid of any hate groups whether they’re here or abroad.”
Suleiman is a scholar and imam who is extremely active in North Texas, especially so with interfaith activities.
Earlier this month, he learned from a professor friend that he was an ISIS target in a new video that surfaced online.
Suleiman said the video of him was taken from his interfaith project “An Imam, A Pastor, and A Dream” created with Andrew Stoker at First United Methodist Church in Dallas.
Nevertheless, his bigger fear is at home, not thousands of miles away.
“I’m more afraid of my wife walking into Walmart than I am of myself because of an ISIS video, to be honest with you,” he said.
“It’s literally at any given moment while any Muslim is walking outside, someone could come up to them and start yelling go back home, and assault them.”
Suleiman was referring to the rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims across the US, which followed the inauguration of President Trump and his travel ban targeting Muslim countries.
His sentiments were shared by activist and journalist Shaun King who circulated the news of the video on social media, and Alia Salem, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“Yes, it’s concerning to have people who identify as representatives of ISIS or what have you to make these claims,” said Salem.
“But, frankly speaking, we’ve got a much bigger battle here at home for our safety.”
“The overwhelming threats I receive to my own person, and what people in the community receive, are from people who identify as white nationalists, white supremacists,” Salem said.
“People who are on the extreme side of the issue, who are established bigots in this community.”
Vowing to continue his message of peace, Suleiman said that threats that create fear must be stopped.
“Our president has shown up in their propaganda videos quite a bit because he is preaching the message they want to hear, which is you cannot be an American Muslim,” Suleiman said.
“Americans of all sorts need to come together and resist this type of bigotry, resist the message from ISIS.”